Urbanite Wildlife

The other night I was taking the garbage out and I ran into a very young raccoon who was just as surprised to see me as I him. But he wasn’t overly concerned about the meeting, not like his country cousin would have been and it struck me that he sees humans walking about all the time, so it is a natural thing for him. The cement, noise and people of urban life is his ‘forest’, he was born into it. And he is not alone.

While we often think of the wildlife in our city parks and yards to be an unusual occurrence, we forget that there are generations of animals that never see the traditional forest or meadow and have comfortably thrived and brought up their families in the city. The standard mix of wildlife encompasses squirrels, rabbits and birds, but there are others such as deer, raccoons, coyotes, otters and even the occasional bear who will use some man made ‘dens’, like underneath a patio or porch to stay cozy until the spring thaw.

There are a different set of rules to follow I would imagine. Hanging around human dwellings is convenient and one can usually obtain a good meal from garbage stands, gardens, birdfeeders and birdhouses if an animal stays somewhat out of the ever present lights. Dog and cat food left outside would make a very satisfying snack.  Mothers may teach their young to be aware of vehicles and humans on foot, but there is no need to be hysterical about the meeting. Watch and listen for the natural enemy the dog, but many times a dog is contained and I’m sure that lesson is taught as well. (Every once and a while a raccoon would sit ten feet on the other side of the fence and drive my girls into a frenzy, but the raccoon wasn’t overly concerned.)

Habitat encroachment has made it necessary for some wild creatures to adapt to city life and they have done so with gusto. But it does give me pause.

When we trap and relocate an animal that is invading our space with a bit too much bravado, are we taking an animal that was raised in the city for generations and plopping them into what we consider a safe and plentiful ‘garden’ when in reality they most likely will not do very well because they lack the tools of wild survival? What if we relocated a person, who was raised for generations in New York City, had never tasted the wild and dropped them off in the interior of Alaska? That is not a recipe for success.

Maybe we need a halfway house of sorts. Or wildlife rehabilitation center to help them learn a few skills in hunting and foraging. Most of these places are overwhelmed with students and I’m sure they would not be happy with my suggestion. To my mind it does make sense though.

After all, it’s a whole different world out there. If they hear a dog barking, well one has to make tracks because more than likely one is being hunted. There is no garden of assorted vegetables to choose from for the evening meal, one has to do some foraging of wild things and we all understand that the veggies aren’t growing in one convenient place in the woods…just ask the New Yorker dropped in Alaska.

It is something to consider when we are relocating wildlife that is no longer truly wild, and while we are transferring our charge to a ‘rehab’ center, perhaps it is not out of bounds to drop a little something in the donation can either.


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