This myth goes all they way back to 373 BC where anecdotal evidence says that animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects were behaving strangely. They would leave their homes and head for safety from weeks to seconds before an earthquake. There are other stories where pet owners report that their cats and dogs act strangely for no apparent reason before the ground shook. Or how chickens have stopped laying eggs and bees leaving their hives in a panic.
It’s hard to know precisely what animals sense. A theory is that they detect electrical changes in the air. Another theory is that they can feel the vibrations from the earth before humans do.
One interesting event occurred in 1975 when Chinese officials observed strange behavior in animals and ordered the evacuation of the city of Haicheng (population of one million) days before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit. It’s estimated that over 150,000 people would have been killed or injured had they not been evacuated. Instead, only a small portion of the population was affected. Some people say that it may have been due to foreshocks that the animals felt since they have far more sensitive senses than humans so they weren’t actually predicting it and only reacting to those vibrations.
More recently, scientists found significant changes in animal behavior weeks before a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Peru in 2011. Motion-sensor cameras were setup in Peru’s Yanachaga National Park to capture animal activity in the area. After close analysis of the footage, scientists found that 3 weeks before the earthquake there was only about a third as many animal sightings as usual. And shockingly, a week before the earthquake there were no sightings at all which is extremely unusual for a rainforest full of wildlife. Researchers think it might be due to the positive ions released in the air that build up when rocks are stressed which the animals detect and cause them to flee.
So is this a myth? Who knows! There are also several cases where animals didn’t react so it’s hard to correlate the findings. I think we need more research to get more conclusive evidence but it’s pretty interesting! Maybe “Sparky” might one day save your life by alerting you that an earthquake is coming.
What do you guys think? Do you think animals can predict earthquakes? Do you have any experiences with your pets like this? Share your stories with us in the comments below.