TIME animals

Here’s How Wild Animals Are Adapting To City Life

Big animals are coming back

Several times this spring, coyotes made national headlines when spotted roaming the streets of New York, from Manhattan to Queens.

In recent years, a host of charismatic wild species, the coyote being only the most famous, have returned to American cities in numbers not seen for generations. Yet the official response in many areas has been, at best, disorganized, and people’s responses varied. The time has come for us to accept that these animals are here to stay, and develop a new approach to urban wildlife.

Most big American cities occupy sites that were once rich ecosystems. New York and Boston overlook dynamic river mouths. San Francisco and Seattle border vast estuaries, while large parts of Chicago, New Orleans and Washington, DC rest atop former wetlands. Even Las Vegas sprawls across a rare desert valley with reliable sources of life-giving fresh water, supplied by artesian aquifers the nearby Spring Mountains. All of these places once attracted diverse and abundant wildlife.

In the early days of urban growth, which for most American cities was in the 18th or 19th centuries, charismatic native species were still common in many increasingly populated areas. These creatures disappeared due to numerous causes, from overhunting to pollution.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the country’s metropolitan fauna had been reduced to a motley collection of exotic rodents and birds, packs of mangy dogs, and the urban environment’s most fearsome apex predator, the house cat, which terrorized any remaining native songbirds.

Return of big animals

It is impossible to point to a precise date when wildlife began to return to American cities, but the release of Walt Disney’s Bambi, in 1942, is a good place to start.

For Bambi, people were careless arsonists and bloodthirsty predators who forced woodland creatures “deep into the forest.” Ironically, however, the film’s success helped pave the way for deer populations to explode in developed areas.

Bambi in 1942: People brought nothing good to the forest.

After World War II, in part due to changing attitudes toward wild animals, hunting declined as an American pastime. At the same time, suburbs spread into the countryside. Deer, which had nearly disappeared in several northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, multiplied on golf courses, ball fields and front yards.

Beginning in the 1960s, new laws sought to recover threatened species, and many states curtailed predator control programs. New nature reserves also provided spaces where wildlife populations could recover, and from which they could disperse into nearby cities.

The results were swift and unmistakable. Foxes, skunks, raccoons and possums became ubiquitous American urbanites. So did many raptors, such as peregrine falcons, which thrilled geeky birders and corner office CEOs alike with their aerial acrobatics and fondness for nesting on skyscrapers.

Once a rare sight outside forests, deer have spread widely and in their abundance, altered ecosystems.
Don DeBold/flickr, CC BY

By the 1990s, larger mammals began to appear in the shadows. Coyotes, bobcats and black bears turned up miles from the nearest woodlot, and mountain lions prowled the urban fringe.

And there is more. Alligators bounced back from near extinction to populate creeks and ponds from Miami to Memphis. Aquatic mammals such as beavers and sea lions staged remarkable comebacks, including in urban waters. Fishers, members of the weasel family once regarded as reclusive denizens of northern forests, found homes from cushy Philadelphia suburbs to the mean streets of New York. In the Southern California city where I live, the newest addition to our urban menagerie is a small population of badgers.

How long will it be until wolves show up in the Denver suburbs?

New animals, new policies

Human residents of these cities tend to react in one of two ways — with surprise or fear — to reports of such charismatic wildlife in their midst. There are historical reasons for both responses, but neither makes much sense today.

People react with surprise because most still cling to the old belief that wild animals need wild areas. What these animals actually need is habitat. A suitable habitat does not have to be a remote wilderness or protected sanctuary; it must only have sufficient resources to attract and support a population. For a growing cadre of wild species, American cities provide a wealth of such resources.

Undaunted: raccoons find an easy meal behind a pizza shop in Florida.
Christina Welsh/flickr, CC BY-ND

People react with fear because they have been led to believe that any wild animal bigger than breadbox must be dangerous. Wild animals certainly deserve our respect. A little caution can help people avoid unpleasant encounters, and extra vigilance is a good idea whenever pets or children are involved. Large wild animals can carry diseases, but proper management can reduce the risks. And predators can help control diseases by consuming rodent and insect pests.

Despite their reputations, large wild animals are just not very dangerous. By far the most dangerous animals in North America, as measured in human fatalities, are bees, wasps and hornets. Next are dogs — man’s best friend — followed by spiders, snakes, scorpions, centipedes and rats. The most dangerous animal, globally and throughout human history, is undoubtedly the mosquito. Coyotes are nowhere on the list.

The Nature Lab at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County helps people get to know urban wildlife.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Nevertheless, officials have responded to coyote sightings in New York and other cities by rounding them up and moving them to more “appropriate” habitats. Usually, these efforts end with little trouble. But in at least one recent Manhattan case, the critter in question escaped after a chaotic and expensive three-hour pursuit that embarrassed the authorities and revealed the ad hoc nature of our policies.

This is an uncoordinated, unaffordable, unscientific, and unsustainable form of wildlife management.

A 21st-century approach to urban wildlife must include four elements:

  • research is crucial for any management effort, but it is especially urgent in this case because wildlife scientists, who have long preferred to work in more pristine areas, know so little about urban ecosystems
  • educational programs can help dispel myths and foster public support
  • infrastructure upgrades — such as street signs, wildlife resistant trash bins, and nonreflective treatments that make glass windows more visible to birds — can help prevent unwanted human-wildlife encounters while protecting animals from injury and disease
  • finally, clear policies, including rules of engagement and better coordination among the various agencies responsible for urban wildlife, are crucial for both long-range planning and responding to rare but genuine emergencies.

All of these measures are essential if America’s increasingly urban human population is to live in peace with its increasingly urban wildlife.

The Conversation

Peter Alagona is Associate Professor of History, Geography and Environmental Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Important: Stephen King Has a Corgi and You Need to Drop Everything and Look at Her

Her name is Molly but he refers to her as the Thing of Evil

The other day, international literary icon Stephen King shared a photo with his 4.3 million Facebook fans. It was a photo that would change absolutely everything. Absolutely everything. Behold:

Yes, that is Stephen King, reigning master of horror, holding his adorable pet corgi. Her real name is Molly, but he likes to refer to her as the “Thing of Evil.”

Here is the story of Molly. King first introduced her in December, when he showed her as a tiny pup chewing on a Santa hat. So festive!

A few months later, in February, King shared a picture of a then four-month-old Molly showing that she seriously knows how to chill.

No seriously, she is so good at chilling.

In April, we learned that Molly spends her days dreaming up wicked schemes.

Then, in May, the author revealed Molly’s true nature as both a Thing of Evil and also a ferocious hunter.

We also got a glimpse of Molly’s fitness regimen.

In June, we found out that Molly is also a really skilled destroyer of inanimate objects.

Oh, and for the record, King did not decide to get a corgi simply because they are the stubby-legged, fluffy-butted darlings of the Internet. He revealed in a Throwback Thursday photo that he had a corgi named Marlowe back in 1995:

A few of King’s literary characters have even been corgis: Horace in Under the Dome and Daisy in The Regulators.

TIME animals

Watch Jimmy Kimmel Give the World’s Ugliest Dog a Makeover

“A cross between Honey Boo Boo and a hooker”

Quasi Modo may have risen to fame as the newly crowned “World’s Ugliest Dog,” but Jimmy Kimmel still wanted to help Quasi out. After all, being named “World’s Ugliest” anything isn’t exactly the highest praise.

So Kimmel, with the help of celebrity stylist Carson Kressley, gave Quasi a full makeover, complete with a new hairdo and outfit to create a look that Kimmel describes as “a cross between Honey Boo Boo and a hooker.”

And even if the look may be a little too high-maintenance for Quasi Modo’s owners to keep up, at least the dog got to feel like a “regular Elle Macpherson” for a day.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME animals

This Orphaned Tree Kangaroo Was Raised by a Surrogate Wallaby Mother

Adelaide-Zoo-Tree-Kangaroo
Adelaide Zoo

"If we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck"

Zoo keepers in Adelaide, Australia, saved the life of an orphaned tree kangaroo by using a surrogate wallaby mother, in what the zoo says is a world first.

The joey, known as Makaia, was left orphaned at just five weeks when zoo keepers discovered that a fallen tree branch had killed his mother. As Makaia was too young to be hand-reared, the Adelaide Zoo staff decided to try to “cross-foster” the little kangaroo, placing the joey into the pouch of a surrogate wallaby mother.

While cross-fostering has been successfully done before, Adelaide Zoo veterinarian David McLelland said that this was the first attempt with a tree kangaroo. “Not only are tree kangaroos distant relatives of wallabies, they also have many behavioural and physical differences,” McLelland said in a press release on the Adelaide Zoo website. “We had no idea if the yellow-foot would accept the tree kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck.”

TIME animals

Watch This Super Lucky Dog Play in a Surprise Ball Pit

He has pretty much the best owners ever

Maymo the beagle just got the treat of a lifetime: a DIY ball pit right in his living room. His owners simply pushed some couches and tables together and then dumped dozens of brightly colored plastic balls onto a rug. Then they hung back and let Maymo have at it.

Note: Maymo’s people call this the “best dog birthday surprise.” However: they uploaded this video on June 28, but on their YouTube page, they list his birthday as Jan. 15. Something feels off about that, right? Maybe they made this ball pit for Maymo just because and now they’re suggesting other people do it specifically for their dog’s birthday.

Either way, Maymo does not love his ball pit nearly as much as Grover the pug loved his.

TIME

Beloved Japanese Cat ‘Elevated to Status of Goddess’ at Lavish Funeral

Cat stationmaster Tama, superstar in western Japan, dies
Kyodo/AP Tama, a cat stationmaster of a railway station in western Japan, attends an event at her Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan in Jan., 2013.

Tama wasn't just any old cat to this community

The beloved rail station cat who died in Japan last week had a funeral fit for a goddess.

Rail officials and thousands of fans attended the funeral for Tama, who died last week after years of attracting tourists to a rail station in Western Japan. According to BBC, she was “elevated to the status of a goddess” at her Shinto-style funeral and titled an “honorary permanent stationmaster.”

The feline was more than just a cute addition to the station, BBC reports, she was also a cash cow. By having her as stationmaster, the railway was able to help turn around from near bankruptcy. Her presence helped generate about 1.1 billion yen.

As a thank you, well-wishers are leaving flowers and cans of tuna outside of the station.

[BBC]

TIME animals

Siegfried and Roy’s White Lion Dies After Medical Procedure

Magicians Siegfried Roy lion white
Siegfried & Roy—Getty Images World-renowned illusionists and conservationists Siegfried & Roy pose with Pride, the Magical White Lion in this undated photo.

Legend went into cardiac and respiratory arrest

A 14-year-old white lion named Legend from the Siegfried and Roy act died at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio after undergoing a medical procedure.

Veterinarians at the zoo, where the lion was on loan, were treating the lion’s paws. Legend went into cardiac and respiratory arrest while being removed from the anesthesia, the Guardian reports.

The lion’s cause of death is still being determined, and the Guardian reports that the veterinarian at the zoo said that while there were risks to anesthesia, the procedure needed to be done to improve the cat’s quality of life.

Legend’s 14-year-old brother Courage also currently lives at the zoo.

[The Guardian]

TIME animals

These Dogs Won Prizes for Being the Ugliest in the World

The 27th annual World’s Ugliest Dog Contest takes place this weekend at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds and Event Center in Petaluma, California

TIME animals

What It Takes To Win The Title of World’s Ugliest Dog

Dogs are judged on appearance and personality at the annual competition

Every day is a day to celebrate the world’s cutest pups, but Friday is the day to celebrate the not-so-adorable dogs at the 27th annual World’s Ugliest Dog Contest

At the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds and Event Center in Petaluma, California, over 20 dogs will be judged on appearance, breed and personality, competing for a $1,500 prize.

Many of the contestants were rescued from shelters and puppy mills by their owners, and now find themselves in the spotlight despite their physical appearances.

According to the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds website, the goal of the event is to raise awareness of animal rescue. “We celebrate the spirit and imperfections that make these dogs loveable and adoptable,” says Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds CEO Sarah Cummings.

Last year’s winner was Peanut, a mutt, who prior to being adopted by his owner Holly Chandler, had been in a dog shelter for nine months.

TIME animals

Watch Firefighters Rescue a Puppy Trapped in a Sewer Drain

They tried coaxing the pooch with dog treats, but that didn't work

This puppy had one ruff day.

Firefighters went to extreme lengths to save a 3-month old Yorkiepoo that had fallen and gotten trapped inside a sewage drain in Buffalo, New York, on Wednesday, according to NBC affiliate WGRZ.

Bailey, the pup, fell six feet into an open sewer drain Wednesday afternoon while on a walk with his owner’s father, Ed Sayles.

Ed and his wife Penny Sayles were dog sitting for their daughter and her family.

“They’re vacationing right now in Texas,” Penny Sayles told WGRZ. “I’m dog sitting and I’m responsible.”

The Sayles family called the Buffalo Fire Department…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

 

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com