Many Idahoans will be looking up to the sky next Monday for the total solar eclipse. But what about animals? How will the natural world react?
Astronomer John Dvorak is the author of Mask of the Sun: The Science, History and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses. He took a moment to address animal behavior this week on the radio program, Reader’s Corner, saying, "It gets dark and the animals think it’s night. And so if cows are out in the field, they turn around and head back for the barn."
The unprotected human eye is unable to handle the sun’s harsh radiation, so people use eclipse glasses that filter out 99 percent of those solar rays. But what about the millions of domesticated animals in our backyards: dogs, cats, and hens?
"That’s a very, very good question," says optometrist Philip Rainey, "but usually they don’t have the curiosity. And frankly, it hurts; so they don’t stare at the sun and they’ll be fine."
In his Boise office, Rainey uses a PowerPoint presentation to ease the fears of his patients. "If you look at the slide that I have up, this is my favorite thing. It just says: 'Animals do not go blind. They have enough sense not to stare at the sun.'"
Human behavior, however, is another thing altogether. If eclipse viewers see animals acting oddly during the event, there’s a smartphone app called iNaturalist being used by the California Academy of Sciences, for people to take photos and describe how animals are behaving.
Find Tom Michael on Twitter @tom2michael
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