CWHC Urban Wildlife Series: Introduction
Have you ever encountered an unexpected wild visitor in your otherwise human-dominated habitat? Depending where you live, the term “urban wildlife” may describe the pigeons you see every day on your way to work, the coyotes that frequently visit your suburban neighborhood, or the bear that wanders into your community in search of a tasty snack. Whatever the species, coexisting with urban wildlife is a complex task with many aspects to consider.
On one hand, urban wildlife is an optimistic story: as suitable habitat is overtaken by human development, some species are embracing the change and thriving in urban environments. An example is the Peregrine Falcon, increasingly found nesting atop buildings and other urban structures and capitalizing on a steady supply of pigeons for food. People generally enjoy seeing this particular species of urban wildlife and many visit popular websites streaming live footage of nest sites. The same general approval applies to many species, as the presence of wildlife in our backyards and neighborhoods can foster a sense of closeness with our natural environment.
On the other hand, with coexistence comes conflict, and the urban wildlife/human relationship is no exception. Wildlife diseases that can be transmitted to humans or their pets are a concern in some situations. For example, raccoons are carriers of Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm) which, if transmitted to humans, can cause major health complications. Other wild visitors, like bears and cougars, may pose a safety threat to humans and their pets, and although most people do not want to see them harmed, they don’t necessarily want them hanging around the neighborhood.
As urban wildlife is an ever-growing issue, there are many programs in place in Canada that are trying to better understand urban wildlife and negotiate a peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife in urban habitats. Some of these programs work to educate people in preventing conflict by removing wildlife attractants, such as improperly stored garbage or other food sources. Others are researching the health of urban wildlife populations to gain a better understanding of health risks they may pose to people and pets.
Over the next four months, we will be presenting an urban wildlife series on our blog and social media. The series will highlight a selection of research and community education programs in Canada, and talk about what can be done to avoid negative encounters and maintain good relationships with the wildlife around us.
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and watch for the #urbanwildlife tag to learn more about the topic and some of the excellent work that is being done to try to mitigate human-wildlife conflict in urban environments.