In The Long Dark, interaction with wildlife is a central part of survival. A wide variety of animals exist on Great Bear Island, including terrestrial, aquatic, and avian species. Many of the animals' behaviours are unusual or unnatural--possibly due to the aurora.
Fish inhabit the waters of several regions. Interaction with fish is limited to the fishing game mechanic, which can only occur in specific, set locations; fish can never actually be seen swimming. The fish species include the smallmouth bass, coho salmon, lake whitefish, and rainbow trout.
Prey animals, such as deer and rabbits will flee when startled by the player. However, moose will not flee when startled and will attack if provoked. All prey animals have semi-randomized routes to roam around regions, but particular locations will reliably spawn particular types of prey animals.
Predatory animals include wolves, timberwolves, and bears, which generally travel along more fixed routes than prey animals. However, predators will stalk and chase prey (including the player) that enters their detection radius.
Bears will ignore prey animals, but may stalk and charge the player. Timberwolves also seem more focused on hunting down the player in packs, but may sometimes attack other prey. Wolves will hunt the player, as well as rabbits and deer.
If a predator attacks the player, a scripted struggle scene will ensue (though the player can only fight back during wolf attacks, not bear attacks). Predators will not attack the player on the Pilgrim difficulty unless provoked.
All animals can be hunted to obtain meat, hides, and guts, which can be cured for use in crafting. Animals will eventually respawn after being killed. However, the respawn rate can be delayed temporarily if the player aggressively hunts down animals in a certain area. Trapping, on the other hand, does not seem to diminish the number of live rabbits in an area.
Crows fly overhead and do not interact directly with the player during gameplay, although they do appear in a few scenes in Story mode. Primarily, circling crows help signal events and locations. Crows will circle over frozen corpses and large animal carcasses, and will occasionally drop crow feathers. When the player is near a bear, crows can be heard calling aggressively, as though they are alarmed or attempting to drive the predator away. Although the birds will grow louder the closer the bear is to the player, the crows themselves will never be visible.
Other bird species (e.g., loons) can be heard calling during certain times of day, however, no other birds besides circling crows are ever visible.
With the exception of fish and birds, when the player first starts up a world, animals will spawn in at the same time the player does. These animals will wander around the region for however long the player stays outside.
When the player enters an indoor location, or leaves the region, the game saves the position of all the animals. If an animal is bleeding, the game will keep track of this. This game state is valid for about one in-game hour, during which time the animals will move around as if the player were present. If the player does not re-enter the region within this time, all the animals will despawn. When the player enters the region once more, all animals be spawn in as if the player entered the region for the first time. If an animal was bleeding and the player re-enters the region before the bleed-out timer has expired, the animal will not die and will respawn, unharmed. If the player stays inside longer than the animal's bleed-out timer, the animal will spawn into the region, dead, but any arrows in its body will be lost.
When an animal is killed, it will be removed from the respawn list for a few days after killing, depending the frequency of deaths and game difficulty. More deaths, longer respawn time. Not harvesting carcasses will result in delayed animal respawn times.
All animals, except for predators which are actively pursuing the player and bleeding animals, will despawn during blizzard weather. This mechanic works the exact same way as it does when the player enters a structure.
- In older versions, animals' pathfinding AI could not navigate obstacles such as fallen tree bridges, staircases, doorways of fishing huts. This has been (mostly) fixed, but animals still have trouble navigating stairs, mazes, and fallen tree bridges on occasion.
- Animals can't enter locations only accessible by squatting.
- Animals will never jump down embankments, even from heights that would not damage the player.
- During Escape the Darkwalker, the Toxic Fog will immediately kill all prey and predator type animals when it descends. Crows will not be affected.