Getty Images | Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

National Parks Flood With Wildlife Amid Lockdown: 'We've Never Seen This'

Wildlife experts say that animals are slowly reclaiming U.S. national parks while humans continue to stay home in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Guardian reported.

Although the appearance of so many animals inside these parks is certainly welcome to see, as parts of the country gradually reopen again, experts fear what might happen to those creatures who have since flooded these areas.

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Earlier this month, officials at California's Death Valley national park saw something they had never seen before.

For the first time in recent memory, they spotted a pronghorn antelope casually browsing a hillside near the now-empty visitor's center.

“This is something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes,” Kati Schmidt, a spokesperson for the National Parks Conservation Association, told the Guardian. “We’ve known they’re in some of the higher elevation areas of Death Valley but as far as we’re aware they’ve never been documented this low in the park, near park headquarters.”

Yosemite National Park has also experienced its fair share of rare sightings since closing its gates to visitors on March 20.

Under normal circumstances, the park would be positively teeming with people — in fact, between March and May there are usually around 730,000 visitors.

However, this year Yosemite Valley has been left virtually deserted, allowing for wildlife to return and enjoy the peace and quiet in humans' absence.

Deer, bobcats, and even black bears have all been spotted wandering into areas normally swarmed with visitors.

Getty Images | Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

In the photo above, we can see a coyote casually strolling through Curry Village, the largest lodging facility offered at Yosemite Valley. Although it would usually be crowded with eager campers this time of year, the cabins and canvas tents remain entirely unoccupied.

Here we see a herd of deer feeding on some grass in Yosemite Valley without having to worry about the threat of crowds.

Getty Images | Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Dane Peterson, a worker at the Ahwahnee Hotel lodging in Yosemite, said that even the bears have ventured further inside the park amid the lockdown.

“The bear population has quadrupled,” Peterson told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not like they usually aren’t here. It’s that they usually hang back at the edges or move in the shadows.”

Other parks across the country have reported similar wildlife sightings as well.

Getty Images | Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

These include Clorado's Rocky Mountain Park and Yellowstone in Wyoming, both of which have seen creatures returning to areas usually crowded with people.

“Without an abundance of visitors and vehicles, wildlife has been seen in areas they typically don’t frequent,” National Park Service spokesperson Cynthia Hernandez told the Guardian, “including near roadways, park buildings and parking lots, spending time doing what they usually do naturally: foraging for food."

As encouraging as these wildlife sightings are, there's also some cause for concern as parts of the country begin to open again.

On Monday, both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks reopened their gates with added safety precautions in effect to protect guests and workers alike.

But while plastic barriers have been installed and disinfectant provided, little has been done to protect the wildlife who have reclaimed these parks since they first closed back in March.

Lindsay Rosa, a conservation scientist with Defenders of Wildlife, said there will definitely be an adjustment period for animals, with some more difficult than others.

Unsplash | Geoff Brooks

“Individuals who have lived in the national park area will likely readjust pretty quickly to the return of recreators after quarantine,” she told the Guardian. “But newcomers, particularly juveniles born this spring, may take a bit longer to learn since they haven’t yet had the opportunity to encounter many humans.”

h/t: Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Photos: Getty Images | Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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