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!

Coyotes In The City


Coyote riding on a light rail train, Portland, OR, 2002Dennis Maxwell/AP

Meet the new urbanites: They have long, furry muzzles, piercing, yellow eyes and are very, very wily.

They’re coyotes.

Until recently, scientists who study wildlife thought coyotes couldn’t live in heavily populated areas. Wild carnivorous animals and humans don’t typically mix.

But, as we’ve previously reported, those scientists were proven wrong. There have been coyote sightings in dozens of U.S. cities — Chicago, Portland, Seattle, even New York City. Like the fox, the skunk and the raccoon before it, the coyote is the latest predatory animal to make the city its home…

Stan Gehrt, a professor of wildlife ecology at Ohio State University, said this trend is setting up an inevitable conflict — wild animals are becoming more and more comfortable in populated areas at the same time that people are becoming less and less accepting of the killing of those wild animals.

RTFA. Not too deep; but, a good start. I generally end up on the side of carnivores and predators. Not just in urban districts – in the wild, as well. We’re closer related to them then, say, pigeons and politicians.

Children threatened with rape, murder by human smugglers


Phoenix Police S.W.A.T. officer stands in front of the drop house
Daylife/Ross D. Franklin /AP Photo used by permission

It could have been mistaken for a day care center, with so many children of all ages inside. But the authorities said that the crowded house in a working-class neighborhood here was really a drop point for a human-smuggling operation and that the 10 children, ages 2 to 17, were illegal immigrants being held for ransom.

The mother of three of the girls — a Salvadoran women who is living legally in Northern California — alerted the authorities to the operation late last week when she told the F.B.I. that smugglers had threatened to rape and kill her daughters if she did not pay $10,000. The girls are ages 12, 14 and 15.

The police in Phoenix found the house, on South Seventh Street, and raided it on Thursday night. They found what has become an all too common sight in Phoenix: a large group of migrants being held against their will.

This time, though, most of those inside were crying babies and scared teenagers from Mexico and Central America, all but one of them unaccompanied by an adult…The smugglers had refused to release them, even though their families had paid thousands of dollars to get them into the United States, until more money was handed over.

“We haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Capt. Fred Zumbo, who leads the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s illegal immigration task force. “Imagine what these children went through.”

The authorities arrested a man and a woman, Jaime Cruz Gutiérrez, 44, and Olga Marino Fuentes, 41, both Mexican citizens, on charges of kidnapping, extortion and smuggling humans for a profit.

The depths plumbed by the cultures of crime around the world have no bottom. Whether Sudanese bandits, Afghan warlords, Salvadoran gangbangers or Mexican human smugglers – there is no shame, no humanity, no respect for life and individual freedom.

They deserve to lose nothing less than what they are willing to take from every other human being.

Immigrant smugglers using phony government/business vans


I don’t think anyone’s tried to copy this – yet

At first glance, the van carrying 10 people looked like it was owned by a San Diego tour company. But a California deputy took a second glance last week and discovered something quite different. The van was a “cloned” vehicle — one that could be quickly converted to look like either a tour van or a security van commonly used to transport illegal immigrants apprehended in the area, authorities say…

Here’s how the operation worked, the agency says: Smugglers in Mexico helped the illegal immigrants get into the United States, either on foot or by other means. Once across the border, the people were met by a van that had “Wackenhut” stenciled on its side. It looks similar to vans contracted by the federal government to transport apprehended aliens.

Border Patrol spokesman Jerry Conlin said a Wackenhut van full of people would not normally raise suspicion in the border area. Once the van was well north of the border, smugglers slapped a magnetic sign reading “San Diego Tours” over the Wackenhut insignia…

The deputy found 10 men inside the van and called for the Border Patrol to help translate. The agents discovered seven Mexican nationals and two Chinese nationals — all in the country illegally. The 10th person, a 19-year-old U.S. man, was charged with smuggling…

Conlin said the cloning of a prisoner transport van is a new twist on an old smuggler ruse. Drug and human smugglers have been known to use vehicles disguised as UPS, DHL and San Diego Gas and Electric trucks, and even one disguised as a contractor working on the border fence.

In more than one instance, smugglers cloned Border Patrol vehicles, he said.

You’re frequently less likely to be stopped when you look like an official. Just pick out someone obscure – and high up the food chain – to clone.