Animals seem to have a sixth sense about things–they seem to know when you’re feeling upset and need some cheering up and sometimes it seems as though they are able to differentiate between people who are nice and those who are not so nice. If you are an animal lover you have probably noticed pets, wildlife or livestock act a little strange when the weather changes, but did you know that some people believe animals can sense when an earthquake is going to strike?
According to the United States Geological Survey, animals were reported to have exhibited strange behavior prior to an earthquake that struck Greece in 373 B.C. Supposedly, animals such as rats, weasels, centipedes and snakes high-tailed it out of the area just days before a major–and very destructive–earthquake struck.
Other reports have held that birds, fish, reptiles and insects have exhibited strange behavior in days and even seconds prior to earthquakes. Could these creatures be more in tune with the Earth and sense coming seismic vibrations before the Earth actually shakes?
Prior to a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck L’Aquila, Italy in April 2009, frogs may have known the quake was coming. According to an article originally published in the Journal of Zoology in 2010, researchers made note that large numbers of toads left a breeding area about five days prior to the earthquake.
One researcher in 2003 suggested that dogs would show agitated behavior and could forecast earthquakes. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/11/1111_031111_earthquakeanimals.html
Researchers had been monitoring breeding populations of the toads in the area and noticed that in the days before the earthquake, the numbers dwindled drastically until one day there were none in the area. A few days later the earthquake struck the area.
Along with anecdotal evidence and scientific observations comes more dramatic accounts of strange animal behavior foretelling earthquakes. This was the case with the historic 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes. Some writers and witnesses to these earthquakes later shared stories about animal behaviors that may or may not have been true but certainly were entertaining to listeners.
One writer, Charles Joseph Latrobe, shared a story in 1835 of mass squirrel migration prior to the beginning of the earthquakes. His account observed that squirrels “obeying some great universal impulse” left the forests before the Earth began to shake and made their way to the Ohio River where most of them drowned.
As an animal lover myself, I have witnessed strange behavior of my own pets prior to severe weather. Just recently a pet dog and cat exhibited very strange, restless and agitated behavior just before a very bad storm moved through.
Some theories about why members of the animal kingdom might be able to detect earthquakes include beliefs that animals might be able to detect vibrations, electrical changes or even gas emissions due to imminent seismic activity.
Ultimately, it is impossible to draw concrete conclusions and definitive proof. As for me, if I notice mass migrations and other strange animal behavior around my home, I’ll make sure my emergency kit is well-stocked…just in case.