In the Loop

Urban Jungles?

Posted at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2007 by Sanden Totten (9 Comments)

urbansigns.jpgDriving into St Paul today I saw a bald eagle. Seriously. They've been on the rise here.

It got me thinking about the wildlife of our cities. Common sense tells us that most animals stay out of our concrete jungles but some recent reports paint urban areas as a hot bed of animal and plant action. They say the countryside is less hospitable to critters than it used to be thanks to large scale farms that reduce bio-diversity and often leave dangerous chemicals in their wake.

Animals are adapting to their new homes in some surprising ways. Check out these birds that learned to rap. Others haven't been doing quite as well (check out the second paragraph for the evolutionary explanation for roadkill).

And here I was thinking the only wild animals living in the Twin Cities were Gopher fans after a big win.

(Photo by Elia Diodati via CreativeCommons license)

Comments (9)

The Science Museum is doing a series called "Wild Music", which will be traveling the country for a couple of years. A lot of animal noise and how it relates to our own.

Posted by Preston Wright | January 23, 2007 3:40 PM

Does this urban in-migration explain all those squirrels in my yard? Seriously, there must be no better example of environmental adaptation than those little pains in the neck. I put a squirrel feeder just outside our window, and they sit there gnawing on their little corn-roll with my cat six inches away on the other side of the glass. I am amazed at watching squirrels cross the road. The amazing thing is not how many get hit, but how many seem to very thoughtfully pick their way across.

Posted by Jeff | January 23, 2007 3:56 PM

My parents live in Highland and their cat was eaten by a coyote that's been trolling the 'hood for a few years. It's slightly ironic since the cat spent the summer in the country which is where you'd expect any eating to take place. I think the coyote took a year off, though, and now we're overrun by wild turkeys (which actually look better than those we saw at the fair). So yes, there is an urban jungle and it will kill.

Posted by Kristen | January 23, 2007 5:12 PM

A coyote in Highland, Kristen? That floors me.

Some species seem to be a perfect match for urban areas. I must spot raccoons two to three times a week, and you just know that they're living large on the alarming amount of trash and habit that is available thanks to homes.

In other news, 2007 might very well be the year of the urban bunny. If they joined forces and organized my dogs would be in serious, serious trouble.

Posted by Julia Schrenkler | January 24, 2007 7:55 AM

Wild Turkeys? You mean like they party real loud and leave Pabst cans all over your yard?

Apparently Coyotes have been quick to adapt to the cities. They are already riding public transportation.

Posted by Sanden Totten | January 24, 2007 10:28 AM

For some reason, I didn't remember until reading these comments, but just a week ago I swear my wife and I saw a coyote on the sidewalk, across the street, one night as we were walking our dog in St. Paul. A coyote in Mac-Groveland -- seriously. He took off down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. I felt really bad for him.

Posted by Jeff | January 24, 2007 10:55 AM

A couple months ago a buddy and I nearly ran over two skunks in the park across the river from downtown St Paul. This was on the bike path, maybe 75 yards from the (Roberts street?) bridge. That was probably more surprising than seeing a deer in someone's front yard on 46th street & Stephens Ave a couple years ago.

Posted by bsimon | January 24, 2007 4:10 PM

For about five years I lived in a house that was across from one of the tiny, tiny urban lakes. (More like a puddle.) Okay, it was in a suburb, but a St. Paul suburb that is more urban than places south. One of my favorite memories of that home was when I looked across the frozen lake to see a beautiful red fox trotting across the ice. The the fox's coloring and the contrast to the white covering of snow was like a beautifully composed shot from a nature program, but this was happening across my street. It was such an amazing site that I wondered if it had actually occurred.

The sighting of the red fox was confirmed a few months later. Sometime in early spring, I walked out of my front door to sit on the front steps like I did most times when I was on the phone. I saw a stick in the front yard that I needed to pick up and I started towards the lawn. Something made me look up. I held my breath. The red fox and I stared at each other for several long seconds. I had this moment of panic before I realized how stupid that was. He turned and ran around the back of my house.

We also had turtles laying eggs in our front yard (I have some neat pictures of that) and for a couple of years, I couldn't mow the lawn without taking out several frogs.

I once received an urgent text message from my daughter telling me that she had seen a wild turkey in downtown St. Paul from the bus on her way to school.

I guess I would expect increasing mass numbers of wildlife in urban places, especially in the Twin Cities where our borders contain so many lakes and parks. I do agree with the idea that certain animals are being pushed into living "with us." In my home state (south of MN) a highway project destroyed much of the natural habitat of the deer and they were forced into moving closer to humans. There were also so many deer in Iowa City that they were literally crashing through living room picture windows. One of the solutions to the problem was to issue special licenses so that sharp shooters could take them out. Coyotes are scavengers who have long been "invading" urban areas to the detriment of domestic animals. I've seen some theories that sitings of increased "sightings" of wild animals are escaped "exotic" domestic pets. Other species have been there a longer periods of time and I think it's possible and they are becoming more adapted to our urban invasion. They were here first.

And I love watching squirrels just as much as my cats love watching them. I have to note that the squirrels in West St. Paul have a death wish. Or else it really is like that Geico commercial.

(I meant to write a comment, not an essay.)

Posted by shannon | January 25, 2007 5:36 AM

I came back from work and there's a coyote barking at me...I am not kidding, I just finish fixing my patio tonight and I went inside the house, the coyote came out from behind my shed, this is like 9PM in Maplewood. I just realize there's a coyote live in my back yard. What should I do? Trap it and kill it? Trap it and adopt it as a pet? Or trap it and drop it off in the country site? Animal Control. Feel free to email me. If anyone still thinks I am lying, I will trap it and make you eat it.

Posted by Pao | June 1, 2007 10:37 PM

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