As habitat is restored in Freshkills Park, many animal species have already returned to the site, including foxes, turtles, egrets, rabbits, deer, and, as of recently, a coyote. In fact, coyotes are becoming increasingly prevalent in urbanized areas across the U.S., leading to conflicts over how to handle these wild animals when they come into contact with humans.
Coyotes find suburban areas particularly attractive for the abundant availability of food sources, including pet food, human food scraps, fruit trees, rodents, and even small pets. An article in the New York Times today highlights the difficulties that can arise in coexisting with these large predators. However, the article also noted the proactive approach that Denver has taken to prevent and safely manage conflicts with coyotes.
Founded in 2008, Project Coyote works with communities to develop “coexistence plans” that focus on strategic hazing, or training residents, animal control officers and parks staff to use consistent and persistent deterrents like loud noises, water spraying, bright lights, throwing objects, shouting and chasing coyotes.
Denver adopted a hazing-based management plan three years ago, sending out teams, for example, to scare off coyotes that had taken to trotting after joggers in a public park. And according to a case study prepared by wildlife specialists with the Humane Society and Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department, officials report that hazing has successfully reversed “aggressive and undesirable behaviors in coyote family groups and solitary coyotes, reducing pet attacks in neighborhoods and reducing the overall number of complaints from residents.”
In Denver, the killing of coyotes was reserved as a last resort — an action to be taken only in response to human attacks — but no lethal control has been used since the hazing program began in 2009. According to the case study, “one of the novel and cost-savings aspects of the program is its hands-on and empowering nature — it gives local residents the ability and confidence to address coyote conflicts in their own backyards, without outside help.” Similar programs are being developed or put into effect around the country.
Hopefully, the coyote spotted at Freshkills Park will be content to have the whole the park to himself for the time being, but the Denver example shows that education and local empowerment can play an important role in learning to live with urban coyotes.
(via New York Times)
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)
Freshkills Park bids a fond farewell to the herd of goats who have spent the past few weeks “mowing” the invasive phragmites at the North Park Wetlands Restoration Site. This quirky group of goats, with names like Mozart, Haydyn and Van Goat, not only did a fantastic job of removing the vegetation from the site, but also seemed to thoroughly enjoy their pleasant surroundings at Freshkills Park. The herd even welcomed a new member during their stay, with the birth of an adorable baby goat a few weeks ago (see our previous post about this new “kid” on the block). For more photos of all the goats in action, be sure to look back at all of our Facebook and Flickr albums.
Although the goat crew will be missed, we are thrilled to be able to welcome them back to Freshkills Park for our annual Sneak Peak event on Sunday, September 23rd, where the herd will be featured at the Petting Zoo. Stay tuned to our blog and Facebook pages for more exciting Sneak Peak updates!
A few days ago, an adorable baby goat joined the herd that’s spending the summer at Freshkills Park. The small kid spent her first few days of life enjoying a restful and shady corner of the park surrounded by tall grasses, before, as their devoted herder Larry Cihanek had planned, she and her mom were taken back to their farm in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The rest of the nineteen goats in the herd will remain at Freshkills Park for the next few weeks, grazing on invasive plant species as part of a 2-acre wetland restoration project. Check out our Facebook page for more glimpses of the baby goat!
An interesting experiment in water pollution management is taking place in the Bronx River estuary near Hunts Point in New York City. Scientists are testing the use of a ‘Mussel Raft’ for addressing nitrogen pollution from treated sewage that ends up in the water from a nearby treatment facility.
Mussels are known for their filtration properties and are being tied to lines on the raft to assist in water filtration. Non-edible ribbed mussels were chosen in the hope they would not be harvested to be eaten. The mussels filter about 1.6 liters of water (0.4 gallons) every hour. Find the full story in The New York Times.
Be sure to check out our Facebook and Flickr pages for tons more photos of the goats in action. Our newest residents, with names such as Mozart, Haydn and Van Goat, seem to already be enjoying life (and lunch) at Freshkills Park!
With the support of a New York State Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant, the Department of Parks & Recreation is undertaking restoration of two acres of wetland habitat along Main Creek within Freshkills Park that will include goat grazing as a method of invasive plant control. This pilot project will provide guidance for further wetland restoration projects within the 2,200-acre site, which is the largest landfill-to-park transformation project in the world.
The project seeks to lessen the current erosive impacts at the shoreline while planting native species to enhance habitat value and prevent the return of Phragmites, a highly invasive species. It will create a wider band of salt marsh habitat and a mosaic of coastal habitat including coastal grassland for a variety of marine, avian and wildlife species. The project will stabilize the shoreline to provide additional protection for habitat from potential climate change and sea level rise and will improve water quality through increased interface between coastal plants and tidal waters.
Prior to the wetland construction, a herd of goats will perform conservation grazing to clear invasive plants from the site, particularly Phragmites. Prescribed goat grazing is more common in the rangelands of the western U.S., but is being used more often in the eastern half of the country and in more urban areas, including Governors Island and Ft. Wadsworth in New York City. Benefits of utilizing goats for prescribed grazing include:
- Goats are adept at accessing fence borders, steep slopes and other “hard to reach” plots.
- Although goats produce low levels of methane, they emit far less greenhouse gases than traditional “spark-ignition” lawn mowers.
- Research suggests grazing animals encourage root growth and denser sod cover.
- Correctly managed, animal waste is a source for free, organic fertilizer.
The pilot project will be monitored for success in Phragmites eradication and reintroduction of native plant species. For more information on the Main Creek Wetland Restoration and other projects at the site, visit the Freshkills Park website.
Last Friday, a few members of the Freshkills Park team headed out to South Park to check on the bird nestboxes that were set up there last August by Dr. Mark Hauber, a Professor of Psychology at Hunter College. Dr. Hauber is gathering data on the bird populations and breeding success at Freshkills Park, a site which has acted as a stopover for bird species along the Atlantic Migratory Flyway since the closure of the landfill.
We took a peek into about 50 of the 80+ boxes that are set up around this area of the Park, and were delighted to find that many had become a home to nests of house wrens and tree swallows. Some of the boxes are providing shelter for up to seven infant birds, a breeding success indeed! Be sure to check more photos on our Facebook and Flickr pages to get a closer look at the baby birds we discovered and Dr. Hauber at work.
If you are interested in learning more about the birds and wildlife at Freshkills Park, stay tuned for our next bi-monthly birding tour, which will be co-led by naturalists from the Staten Island Museum.
In addition to the ecological benefits of wildlife refuges, a new study from North Carolina State University for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illustrates the community economic benefits. Researchers found that proximity to a wildlife refuge increases metro-area home value, with the Southeast showing the biggest property value increase (7 to 9% higher), followed by metro-area homes in the Northeast (4 to 5% higher). On average, homes near an open space have a 2.8% increase in property value.
The 393-acre William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge is adjacent to North Park within Freshkills Park. The first phase of North Park development will be a 21–acre swath of land conveying visitors to spectacular views of Main Creek and the adjacent wildlife refuge. Features include divided walking and high–speed paths; a photovoltaic shade structure powering the parking lot’s lights; a scenic forested plateau; a comfort station with composting toilets; an expansive picnic lawn; and an overlook deck and contemporary bird observation tower at water’s edge.
(via The Dirt by ASLA)
Mayor Bloomberg and several City of New York agencies recently released The Wetland Strategy report, which outlines plans to protect and improve city waterways. The report contains strategies to address goals in PlaNYC 2030. Among the 12 initiatives are plans to:
- invest $48 million in projects that restore and enhance nearly 127 acres of wetlands and neighboring areas,
- add 75 acres of wetland to the New York City Parks system,
- create the natural areas conservancy to encourage a public-private partnership for wetlands management,
- create a wetlands mitigation banking or in-lieu fee mechanism for public projects.
Freshkills Park, featured on the report’s cover and throughout the document, contains approximately 360 acres of wetlands and is about to begin a 2 acre wetland restoration pilot project in North Park.
(via City of New York)