Watch for unsuspecting critters after time change

It’s just not fair. Sure, getting up before the sun and losing a precious hour of sleep has its disadvantages, but getting home before dark is kind of nice, and at least there are a few more hours of daylight to do things.

But wild things go to a lot of trouble to avoid people, not to mention they can get a lot more done in the dark when the obnoxious two-legged ones are sleeping — which makes those critical scavenging hours kind of important to them.

Sharna Johnson

Sharna Johnson

Yet, like living isn’t challenging enough, every year right about the time spring rolls around, the people start moving earlier — not a pleasant fact to encounter, particularly when it comes to crossing roads that shouldn’t have any traffic on them.

However, the fact that Daylight Saving Time kills — being forced to get up an hour early doesn’t count — doesn’t stop it from happening.

An hour may not seem like much, but twice a year when time shifts, the number of animals killed by vehicles spikes significantly; that’s because whether it is in the wee hours or the evening, with no warning, humans start cruising the roadways during their time.

Aside from being deadly, DST — a completely human concept — messes with a lot of things, and the critters get sucked in, like it or not.

Pets do a great job of adapting to their human’s odd schedules. Even though it can run counter to their own tendencies, for the most part, they get up when the people do, settle in when the lights go out, and get used to meals and bathroom breaks that follow patterns.

Then, for no apparent reason, all the lights get turned on way ahead of schedule, they are being pushed outside to do their business before the sun comes up, have to wait a whole extra hour for dinner, and on top of that, the people are sluggish and grouchy.

When changes are forced on the internal clock, regardless of the species, an adjustment period is needed.
Set by light and dark cycles, and, in the case of humans and their pets, modified by the concept of “time,” the body has a routine and performs accordingly. The brain becomes alert or unwinds and slows, hunger sets in at specific times, even the immune system responds to light and dark cycles.
Meaning a change as small as an hour can be a rough adjustment that knocks everybody — including the pets — out of whack for a couple of weeks.

Being knocked off kilter by time changes can really make a difference. Rats, for instance, have been shown to experience a touch of amnesia after going through extensive time changes similar to those experienced from jet lag.

For humans adjusting to time change, particularly in the spring, which seems to have a more profound effect than changing in the fall, can mean irritability, difficulty sleeping, short-term memory issues, trouble learning new things, problems paying attention and in some cases, even an increased possibility of heart attack for high-risk individuals.

As if surviving winter weren’t difficult enough, as of Sunday, things are bound to get a little more challenging for everybody when the clocks “spring forward.”

However, along with watching the roads more closely for those wild critters that didn’t get the memo, a little understanding can go a long way. While losing an hour of night will be hard on all us animals initially, it won’t be long before the benefits of all that extra sunlight start to make up for the adjustment pains.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:
insearchofponies@gmail.com