This morning, Zoë Rossman, urban ecologist and University of New Mexico Ph.D student, opened our eyes to the amazing adaptations of wildlife thriving in our cities and spoke to how we can all live in harmony with urban animals.
You can watch her full presentation here:
Zoë explained that the species that live near us and do well are synanthropes (defined as animals that benefit from living near human communities and our infrastructure). Surprisingly, these synanthropes are not a new ecological phenomenon; they were actually documented in ancient cities! Coyotes, for example, lived in the 14th century Aztec city of Tenochtitlán.
Successful urban species are usually generalists. They are able to source a variety of foods opportunistically and can exhibit behavioral flexibility, such as becoming nocturnal in cities to minimize interaction with humans.
Urban species in the Tucson area — such as coyote, bobcats, and javelina — do belong in our cities. Unless an animal is visibly injured, sick, or being overtly aggressive, it should not be a cause for concern.
For example, it is normal for coyote to follow the humans that walk through their territory — this is not aggressive behavior. Instead, this type of following behavior, called escorting, may be because there are young coyotes nearby, and a protective mother wants to make sure the human keeps moving away from their den.
Most human-wildlife conflicts arise in cities because of inappropriate wildlife access to food or trash.
To help reduce conflict:
Don’t feed wildlife! Even well-intentioned offerings or accidental food supplies, like pumpkins left outside after Halloween, can encourage wildlife to come to close to homes and create local associations with food sources.
Supervise pets and small children. Wildlife are less likely to approach and make a meal out of a small domestic animal if adults are present as a deterrent.
Never approach or touch wildlife. Notify your local wildlife agency or licensed wildlife rescue center about sick or injured large wildlife animals and leave the response to trained wildlife handlers.
Use hazing to deter unwanted wildlife. Just as offering food can bring wildlife closer to you, hazing them — by making noise, flashing lights, and even chasing animals away — can train wildlife to avoid your home if their presence is unwelcome.
Help us monitor urban wildlife in your community:
Your wildlife observations are wanted! Please consider joining our Sky Island FotoFauna project to share monthly checklists of the species you see on your backyard wildlife cameras and learn about the species detected in your neighborhood.