Reporting Ron Matz
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a question a lot of people are asking after Tuesday’s earthquake. Did many animals know it was about to happen?
Ron Matz has more on some strange behavior before the quake and the mystery that surrounds it.
In Severna Park, a cat makes a run for it. Ten seconds later, an earthquake rattles Maryland and the East Coast.
At the Maryland Zoo, the elephants also sense something is about to happen. Experts say animals can communicate by sub-sonic noises. That’s below what humans can hear. It’s the kind of wavelength an earthquake would be giving off.
“Elephants have a different perceptual world than we do. Part of that is they can hear sounds and sense sounds way below our frequency. So we suspect they were actually aware of the earthquake well before we were,” said Kevin Murphy, assistant curator at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. “Elephants are very sensitive animals. When we have loud dump trucks or loud equipment around, they react and they get very alert and sort of get an elevated level of behavior. That’s what they were doing Tuesday. It’s kind of a guess, but we feel like they knew it was coming before we did. They got very active and alert and banded together. They all moved toward each other and kind of circled the wagons if you will.”
Some animals at the Maryland SPCA also exhibited strange behavior, just prior to the big shake.
“It’s interesting. The animals are so sensitive and what we think of as maybe they’re nervous about one thing, we look back and realize it was probably the earthquake. We didn’t realize it at the time,” said Aileen Gabbey, Executive Director of the Maryland SPCA. “They have better senses than we do in a variety of ways — their eyes, their ears, their sense. I think in a lot of ways they are superior to us.”
And it’s not just before the quake. Rosie the pit bull is suffering from some post earthquake anxiety.
“The cages in the kennel were vibrating, which is a very different sensation for everybody. I was upstairs in a meeting and we felt the room sway back and forth which is obviously very different. I never thought I would experience an earthquake here,” said Nichole Miller, animal care and behavior manager at the Maryland SPCA.
Six years ago, elephants fled to higher ground before the tsunami. On Tuesday, flamingos at D.C.’s National Zoo huddled together before the quake.
“I think it’s partly survival. When they sense a flood is coming, they run the opposite way. When they sense a storm is coming, they either huddle together or they find cover. I think that’s really important. We should be in tune to them so they can help us out,” said Miller.
“Being able to sense a feeling, pressure or noise comes in handy if there’s a disaster that’s impending. They’re very in tune to their environments. They can sense things that we simply can’t,” said Gabbey.
Other zoos up and down the East Coast are reporting similar animal behavior both before and after Tuesday’s quake.