URBAN AREAS

Around half of the planet's population now lives in a city. The move towards urban living has increased city sizes tremendously with an enormous impact on ecosystems. Once wild landscapes have been transformed into urban centers, changing animal habitats both inside and outside the areas.

Animals in these areas have had to adapt. They have learned to create new homes within their artificial environments. They have also discovered new food sources, including waste created by humans. Food chains of numerous species have been altered.

Urban areas range from fully urban with little green space and mostly covered by paving or buildings, to suburban areas with gardens and parks. Different types of urban areas support different kinds of wildlife. Some animals find shelter in city parks, trees and water sources. Some live inside the city; others just outside the urban habitat. Insects, reptiles and rodents make nests inside buildings in small gaps and crevices to find shelter from the elements and protection from predators. Birds nest on buildings. Some animals live under homes and buildings. Some make homes in city sewer systems.

  

Animals have cleverly adapted to their changing world. Some city animals have become nocturnal, using city lights to aid in finding prey. Feral dogs have learned to use subway systems. Urban monkeys and penguins raid human homes to take food. Some steal fruit from vendors. Older deer learn to look both ways before crossing streets. Birds flock to city centers to snack on the food dropped in the streets.

Numerous threats for urban animals include traffic, litter, pollution, noise pollution, bright lighting and lack of space. It is important to reserve space within urban environments for wildlife, and to conserve natural environments outside cities.

 

URBAN ANIMAL FACTS

SHARE YOUR PROPERTY WITH ANIMALS

Despite ever shrinking green space, the animals that share the Earth with us are trying to survive. Our homes, offices and shopping centers were developed on what was once forest and fields. Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, possums, skunks, raccoons, ground hogs and deer are not the invaders. We are. Please remember this when these displaced animals forage for food on your property or try to find places to bear and rear their young.

MONKEY INVASION

Monkeys have long been a common sight in temples and tourist destinations around the world. These intelligent animals once stayed away from urban hubs, restricting themselves to the fringes of big cities. But deforestation, animal agriculture, industrialization and fast expanding cities is reducing monkey habitat at an alarming rate. As a result, many species of monkeys are invading cities for food, shelter and water.

WILD ANIMALS IN THE CONCRETE JUNGLE

If you thought cities were all about concrete jungles and the teeming millions of humans inhabiting it, you are wrong. Quite astonishingly, it's not just man who is moving from the country to big cities; it's their four-legged and furry friends, too. There have been sightings of bobcats, deer, raccoon, coyotes and squirrels in the areas surrounding Laurel Canyon Boulevard, a major arterial road of Los Angeles. It's not unusual to find a crocodile basking in the Biscayne Bay shores of Florida alongside accommodating boaters.

BACKYARD BIRDING

Watching the many species of birds that inhabit your ecosystem is a fun and fascinating pastime the whole family can enjoy together. Winter is the best time to feed birds as they need the food more than at any other time of year and you will typically see a greater number and variety of birds at bird feeders. Many interesting birds from the north fly south in winter, and in spring many species return home from lands in the south, providing a great variety of species to see.

SAVE THE FIREFLIES

“Lightning bugs” or “fireflies” are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the aptly named Lampyridae family. Fireflies have special cells that, when the insects takes in oxygen, combine it with a substance called luciferin. This chemical process takes place in dedicated organs located under the fireflies’ abdomens and produces the light. Fireflies flash their light in patterns that are unique to each of the 2,000 species of firefly. They are communicating. Sadly, as with so many of the Earth’s creatures, fireflies are disappearing all over the world.

DEALING WITH RACCOONS

Raccoons are intelligent, fascinating and highly adaptable mammals. As we destroy more and more wildlife habitat, we force animals like raccoons to come into closer contact with us. There's no need to panic or pay hundreds of dollars for trapping services because most problems can be easily resolved with some simple advice and household materials. Many conflicts occur in spring and summer when raccoons take advantage of cavities in human dwellings to raise their young.

DEALING WITH WOODCHUCKS

Woodchucks are harmless, comical vegetarians who are commonly sighted in suburban backyards and along roadways. Conflicts usually arise over who gets to eat the garden vegetables. Suburban landscapes provide perfect habitat for woodchucks. Our raised decks provide cover and a perfect place to raise young, and our lush lawns provide a virtual buffet. Most woodchuck conflicts occur in spring and summer, just when birthing season has begun.

HOW TO HELP DUCKS

Each year, people are amazed to see ducks and ducklings in the most unlikely places, such as walking single-file through city streets or nesting under bank teller windows! Luckily, ducklings are precocious and mature quickly. Here are some common sense solutions to typical problems encountered in suburban and urban settings.

LIVING IN HARMONY WITH WILDLIFE

We cause our wild animal neighbors far more trouble than they do us, as each day we invade thousands of acres of their territories and destroy their homes. Here are some ways to live in harmony with them. Cap your chimney. When birds sit atop chimneys for warmth they can inhale toxic fumes, and if the chimney is uncapped they can fall in and die.  Because we have destroyed so many den trees, many raccoons nest in chimneys. If you hear mouse-like squeals from above your fireplace damper, chances are they're coming from baby raccoons. Don't light a fire--you'll burn them alive.

FERAL CATS

While some wildlife groups may use media attention to speculate that cats are causing species loss, leading biologists, climate scientists, and environmental watchdogs all agree: endangered species’ fight for survival rests in our own hands. Focusing on cats diverts attention from the far more dangerous impact of humans. Too many media stories sidestep these realities to focus on sensational issues like cats’ imagined impact on birds. But cats have been a natural part of the landscape for over 10,000 years—that has not changed.

YARDS GO NATURAL
Manicured, chemical-laden lawns are out, and woodsy yards with groundcover, hedgerows, and dead wood are in. Today's ecology-minded, health-conscious citizens find the latter far more interesting and beautiful. So do the animals, birds, and fish! Lawn chemicals poison the earth and all its creatures. They poison the yard they're applied to and also travel via storm drains, streams, and toxic clouds to poison other areas.
GO WILD
Increasingly today, corporations and apartment complex owners are planting lawns only in the areas around their buildings. They are leaving the outer areas of their property woodsy and natural, with tall grasses, wildflowers, evergreens, hedgerows, and bushes to provide cover and homes to wildlife. Homeowners can follow these examples on a smaller scale within their own yards. Plant a mix of shrubs, trees, and flowers that will provide nuts, berries, seeds, and nectar to creatures throughout the year, and that will attract birds, nature's best insect controllers.
EXPLORING WAYS TO COEXIST WITH WILDLIFE

Although protected areas such as national parks can play a crucial role in conserving wildlife, most species of large carnivores and large herbivores also depend on being able to occupy human-dominated landscapes. This sharing of space is often associated with conflicts between humans and wildlife, and between different groups of humans with divergent interests. In order to achieve a situation that can be described as "coexistence", there is a need to develop a more nuanced and realistic understanding of what this state looks like.