The number of people who choose to live in cities is on the rise, with 80% of the US population living in urban areas as of the 2010 census. While living in cities like New York reduces our individual environmental impact, it also causes the displacement of wildlife. But, as we all know, the city is not devoid of wildlife, so what types of creatures live here?
Just as the people from New York come from many different areas, the wildlife that inhabits the city often has origins in other places. For example, the Monk Parrot, a bright green tropical bird from Argentina, has established a breeding colony in NYC. This city-dwelling wildlife, whether native or not, faces unique challenges that have prompted some interesting animal adaptations. Like their human counterparts, city-dwelling animals have adapted to denser populations, smaller territories, changes in breeding patterns, and different diets.
Wildlife in the city often finds refuge in the city’s ~29,000 acres of parkland. While Freshkills has not formally been mapped as parkland yet, the wildlife has already recognized the resources that the landscape can provide and has been flocking back to the site. Inhabiting the rolling grassy hills that were once landfill mounds swarming with gulls are foxes, bald eagles, and coyotes. If you’d like to observe the transformation of Freshkills for yourself, join us for one of our spring tours or field trips.
Have you ever wondered what kind of mischief a pet cat could get into at Freshkills Park? Given that household cats are non-native predators in the urban environment, one might wonder what impact, if any, the intrepid felines of Staten Island will have on the native wildlife that make their home in the restored habitats of Freshkills Park.
The debate over the impact of domestic cats, both pets and feral, on the wildlife of cities continues, though there have been few scientific studies. So Kerrie Anne Loyd, an ecologist who recently received her doctorate from the University of Georgia, and collaborators recently set out to find out exactly what our feline friends are up to when roaming the neighborhood. The researchers wanted to know how cats are affecting native wildlife like birds and rodents that share the cats’ environment.
The researchers had cat owners in suburbs of Athens, Ga., put small video cameras (redubbed “kitty cams)” around their outdoor cats’ necks. The cameras recorded everything that 60 cats did during the day. At the end of the day, the owners took off the cameras, downloaded the video footage, and recharged the cameras for the next day’s use. Each cat’s outdoor activities were recorded for about a week.
The most surprising thing they found is that the majority of the house cats weren’t hunters, said Dr Loyd. Only 44 percent of the cats in the study stalked, chased or killed other animals during the day.
Among the cats that did hunt, the most popular prey was also surprising. “The birds were a minority of the prey items,” Dr Loyd said. The cats most commonly caught reptiles, something that other studies had missed because the cats either ate the reptiles or left them behind at the kill site.
Whatever the impact of roaming cats may be, experts agree that the best thing pet owners can do for both wildlife and their pet’s own safety is to keep cats indoors.
“Cats are safer, wildlife is safer and communities are safer when cats are indoors,” said Katie Lisnik, the director of cat protection and policy for the Humane Society of the United States.
She said outdoor cats are in danger of being hit by cars, attacked by other animals or contracting diseases. The most humane way to care for cats, she said, is to keep them inside in a stimulating environment “so that they can express their natural behaviors.”
(via the New York Times)