Statewide safer-at-home orders changed Tampa’s environment

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Asher Montgomery

The statewide safer-at-home order didn’t just keep people at home, it allowed the Tampa Bay environment to begin to recover from human activities. Air pollution has decreased and wildlife, like coyotes, have been spotted along the Hillsborough River.

After cruising down the Hillsborough river last week towards downtown, Angi Brittain stopped her boat. She watched as a coyote trotted alongside the river’s edge near Blake High School. The coyote hustled alongside Blake’s baseball field, turning its head back once to look at the people on the boat before disappearing behind some bushes.

Wildlife

Coyote sightings in Tampa are common according to the Tampa Bay Estuary, which claims that coyotes have been a growing concern in the Tampa Bay Area in the last few years. On occasion, coyotes are seen roaming Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights, mostly in the evenings and early mornings. After seeing Brittain’s Facebook post about the coyote, some members of the community had concerns. They wondered why a coyote was seen in the mid-afternoon when they are primarily nocturnal animals.

The replies and comments underneath Brittain’s post discussed why. Some suspect that because humans aren’t visiting parks anymore and therefore not leaving food out, so the coyotes have to come out during the day to try and find food. Some think they may be coming out because there are less cars and other human activity. Others think that this may be normal for the coyotes and people are just noticing it because they’re not at work. There also have been increased sightings of manatees and dolphins in the Tampa Bay area, and similar discussions surround the cause of the increase.

Sophomore Gianna Settimi, a downtown Tampa resident, noticed that there is more fish in the spring near Water Works park than she observed before the pandemic. “I believe there has been a growing presence of fish in the spring due to the rise in boat traffic on the Hillsborough River and a decrease of noise and vibration in the spring area,” she said.

According to , the Director of Operations for South Florida Wildlife Center, people may be seeing more wildlife because it is breeding season in the animal world, so there is more animal activity. However, she also added that because there is so much less traffic on the roads due to stay at home orders, animals may feel comfortable coming out into neighborhoods.

Air Pollution

While there is little evidence about stay at home effect on wildlife, there have been multiple reports about its impact on air pollution and carbon emissions. While there have been short-term effects, experts have told the New York Times that they will not extend beyond stay-at-home orders. For now, however, air pollution in New York city is down 50 percent according to the BBC and researchers in Oslo have noted that overall, 2020 may still see a .3% drop in global emissions.

Air pollution plays another role in the coronavirus pandemic. According to the New York Times, coronavirus patients are more likely to die from the infection if they have lived in places with higher levels of air pollution than patients living in cleaner parts of the country.

Animal Agriculture

Besides the decrease in transportation, there are other institutes such as agriculture.

Animal agriculture is the largest source of greenhouse emissions. But now, many farms are losing over half their customer base with the closing of schools and restaurants. (insert quote here) In south Florida, produce farmers are destroying perfectly good crops and burying produce even while grocery store shelves are empty across the country. The waste of food could be devastating for both farms and the environment.

This however doesn’t lessen the amount of emissions released by the farms. According to the New York Times, Dairy Farmers of America, America’s largest dairy cooperative, it’s estimated that farmers are dumping about 3.7 million gallons of milk every day and smashing 750,000 eggs every week.