Whether it is the mountain lion living on the edge of Los Angeles, the thousands of feral chickens running around Miami or the thousands of raccoons in Toronto, the facts are indisputable- Many North American species have successfully adapted to urban environments and are thriving. Typical examples include coyotes, the top predator of such regions. Other common urban animals include: red foxes, grey foxes and birds. Omnivores such as raccoons, Virginia opossums and striped skunks are seldom seen and only come out at night.
This influx of wildlife in urban settings is due in part to many factors—the food cornucopia that is suburbia, climate change expanding species’ ranges, urbanization destroying wildlife environments and less hunting, to name a few.
Factors that draw wildlife to urban areas
Various urban factors draw wildlife to urban areas. For example, dense plantings of evergreen shrubs and trees, certain oak varieties, Bradford pear trees, and bamboo may attract large roosts of flocking birds, such as blackbirds or starlings. Vegetation with dense foliage, such as conifers and magnolias, create an attractive roosting habitat for noisy and messy birds.
Including watercourses or ponds (intermittent or permanent) in landscape design may attract a number of undesirable species. For example, aggressive Canada geese often take up residence in office parks, residential areas, golf courses, and other urban sites associated with water. The birds’ droppings are unsightly and can be a human health hazard. Fruit, berry, nut, and other food-producing plants attract wild animals as well.
A number of wildlife species routinely find sources of food throughout the average urban backyard. Greens from yards and gardens are eaten by many rabbits, as evidenced by significant rabbit populations in most cities and towns.
Pigeons tend to survive on improperly stored garbage or other food materials provided to them by people’s untidy habits.
Crows are omnivorous and eat almost anything, readily adapting to local conditions.
Raccoons often referred to as dumpster divers, have adapted to the urban environment with ease. Curiously, these masked critters prefer the big city. In Toronto, there are 50 times more raccoons in the city than the countryside. As omnivores, they adapt well and learn more quickly. In fact, the complex obstacles the urban environments present raccoons are accelerating their development. With hand-like front feet they can open doors and their collapsible spines allow them to climb through crevasses.
People react with surprise about the increase of wildlife in urban environments because most still cling to the old belief that wild animals need wild areas. What these animals actually need is habitat. A suitable habitat does not have to be a remote wilderness or protected sanctuary; it must only have sufficient resources to attract and support a population. For a growing group of wild species, Canadian cities provide a wealth of such resources.
The Basics for Animal Survival
All wildlife species need four essential elements to survive: food, water, shelter, and space. Shelter must be adequate to protect the wildlife from predators and the environment.
Cover or Shelter
Urban settings provide hundreds of places that wildlife species can exploit as sources of shelter. As with water, urban wildlife populations are not usually limited by scarcity of cover or shelter.
You may be surprised by the many different sources of shelter wildlife can find in an urban environment. Wildlife species seek cover for nesting, feeding, and rearing young.
Birds that nest in cavities can be found anywhere they can gain access to enclosed structures, such as holes in buildings. Pigeons can be found at those sites that provide an area for perching while simultaneously protecting the bird from the elements. Other birds, such as swallows, construct nests on the sides and under the eaves of buildings.
Animals need space to survive. Overcrowding of species can lead to competition for available resources (food, water, or shelter). For this reason, only a specific number of animals can live productively in an area. This limitation is commonly referred to as the “carrying capacity” of the area. In urban areas, space is the most challenging habitat requirement to manage because it is difficult, if not impossible, to manipulate this resource. As a general rule, urban wildlife species do not require large amounts of space to survive. In contrast, farmland wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, requires larger expanses.
According to Stan Gehrt, a professor at Ohio State University who has been studying urban coyotes in Chicago, a coyote living in that city has a 60 percent chance of surviving another year, while a rural coyote has only a 30 percent chance. It’s believed that because food and water are more readily available in cities, the urban animals are faring better than their rural cousins. Gehrt says coyotes have so acclimated to the city that they even understand how traffic flows when crossing the street.
Crows have used cities to their advantage, too. Known for dropping nuts and bones from great heights to crack the hard, outer shells so that they can reach the food inside, city crows have devised an even better method: they simply drop the previously impenetrable food into a street and let the cars crack it open.
Urban development destroys natural habitats, but also creates new, free ecological niches covering areas which grow rapidly. This expanding “ecological vacuum” attracts more and more animal populations. Some of them overcome the ecological barriers posed by urbanization and adapt successfully to specific conditions offered by the new space.
So how to urban environments handle the influx of wildlife?
To control urban wildlife populations, one must manipulate one of the four habitat factors described previously. Wildlife cannot survive unless their habitat needs are met. If one of these habitat requirements is absent, wildlife will either migrate to another area capable of providing their needs or die.
Homeowners and businesses will need to adapt their homes and businesses to protect them from wildlife invasion. Traditional methods like using poison or trapping have been proven ineffective. More wildlife will come and replace the old. Using poison in urban environments is risky, posing health hazards to children or pets that may come into contact with it.
Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control has been helping homeowners to solve their wildlife conflicts for nearly 25 years. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in that time, it’s that urban wildlife isn’t going anywhere. Understanding that we will continue to share our communities with wild neighbors makes protecting your home that much more important.
The age, design and building materials used all play a part in making a home vulnerable to future wildlife intrusion. With our experience, Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control is able to identify actual and potential points of entry on your home and properly secure them to prevent future infestation.
The physical barriers we put up keep animals on the outside and once the job is done, we offer a lifetime guarantee against re-entry on any of the serviced areas.
In summary: Wildlife is urban environments is here to stay because urban environment provide the four factors wildlife needs to survive: food, shelter, space and habitat. In fact, animal experts predict that urban environments will be home to bigger and bigger animals over time.
Characteristics of successful urban wildlife:
- May utilize human food sources, such as birdfeeders, garbage, or pet food
- Are typically omnivorous and generalists with regard to food and habitat
- Are often strong competitors and can exclude native species
- May have a higher tolerance of human disturbance
- Can change their behavior and adapt to major environmental disturbances
- Urban animals tend to be bold, not backing down from threats that would send their country counterparts into retreat.
The best defense is a secured home or business, and proper disposable and storage of garbage.
Wild proof your home or business today: Call Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control today. 1-877-222-9453.
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