Going wild in the city

At first glnce, it’s a scene that plays out daily in cities across America. A U.S. Postal Service carrier wearing a royal blue bucket hat steps out of his mail truck and strides across the street, letters in hand. That much is unremarkable. But this postman either doesn’t notice or doesn’t seem to care that a hefty black bear, likely a young male, is sitting on his haunches a few yards away, vigorously scratching his shedding winter coat.

Immediately to the left, Interstate 240 roars behind a chain-link fence, apparently just white noise to the bruin, which eventually lopes down the sidewalk deeper into this neighborhood barely a half mile from downtown Asheville, North Carolina…

While Black Bears have reclaimed about half their former range and now live in some 40 states, coyotes—native to the Great Plains—have taken the U.S. by storm in recent decades. They now can be found in every state except Hawaii and most major cities. The metropolis most synonymous with the urban coyote is Chicago, home to as many as 4,000 of the animals…

Sarah Benson-Amram presented raccoons, coyotes, and skunks with a box equipped with a button or foot pedal that, when pressed, releases food. After the animals figured out how to get the food, the researchers would switch the buttons and pedals, forcing them to tweak their strategy. Most of the raccoons solved the problem on the first night, while only one of six coyotes engaged with the box—and not until the 44th night of testing. Once the coyote was comfortable engaging with the object, it could win the prize just as well as the raccoons and skunks…

Until recently, urban wildlife was mostly ignored in scientific research. This is partly because such species are considered pests unworthy of our attention—or not wildlife at all.

“We live on a planet that’s rapidly urbanizing, and it’s silly for us to say, Oh, we don’t care about animals in urban landscapes,” says Seth Magle, director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. “Whether we like it or not, we live with wildlife.”

Time to start learning how to get along with your new neighbors, folks!

2 thoughts on “Going wild in the city

  1. Outta sight says:

    “Researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on July 11 have found that pocket gophers keep up with the high energy demands of their burrowing lifestyle by “farming” roots that grow into their tunnels. They calculate that these roots supply 20 to 60 percent of the gophers’ need for daily calories.
    “Southeastern pocket gophers are the first non-human mammalian farmers,” says F. E. “Jack” Putz of the University of Florida, Gainesville. “Farming is known among species of ants, beetles, and termites, but not other mammals.”
    Veronica Selden and Putz report that pocket gophers don’t just eat roots that happen to grow in the paths of new tunnels they excavate. Instead, they provide conditions that favor root growth, by spreading their own waste as fertilizer. As a result, the authors argue that—by promoting root growth in their tunnels and then harvesting or cropping those roots—southeastern pocket gophers have stumbled upon a food production system that qualifies as farming.” https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/957505

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