Most folks figure that the reason why rodents in captivity run on wheels (if given the opportunity) is because they’re bored. The animal “Rights” crowd brings that up as evidence of the evils of captivity all day long. They’re wrong, as usual. It’s always been kind of a mystery as to how those folks believe that they know what an animal needs, let alone what it wants. Most of those folks have extremely limited experience with the species that they profess to know so much about.
Over the years, I noticed that no matter how much space some animals are given, if you give them a wheel to run in, they use it. And now, researchers have confirmed my observation – in the wild.
They set up a wheel in a large enclosure in a reserve. The enclosure was designed to afford small animals access, while preventing large animals from knocking the thing around. They also set up motion sensors to activate cameras. And a surprising number of critters went in there and ran on the thing, among them: mice, rats, shrews, and even frogs. The occasional slug even got in on the action.
The researchers could see that some of the wheel movement was unintentional. But other times, the animals would stop running, get off the wheel, then get back on and run some more. That indicated that running was probably an intentional activity, Meijer and Robbers write.
Okay, the slugs probably got involved by accident. But some of the others made return trips. That’s not accidental.