As a general rule, wild animals prefer to stay away from humans. So why do we see them strolling through our backyards? 

Some may prefer the easier access to food, and it’s not hard to see why. Tearing into the trash is much easier (and conserves more energy) than chasing down prey. Humans can be messy, and that mess inevitably attracts scavengers looking for an easy meal. 

On the other hand, animals don’t always stick around for convenience. Large events like wildfires can wipe out a local food source, so if you see them creeping into your neighborhood, it may be more out of necessity than preference. 

Sometimes, the triggering event is less noticeable than a wildfire — but it’s still just as devastating. Your neighborhood’s urban wildlife population may be exacerbated by the loss of migration corridors. Mountain lions, for instance, often traverse large ranges. When development cuts off corridors, animals can become disoriented and confused.

This leads to one of the major “silent killers” of wildlife: habitat fragmentation. Sprawl development is a huge culprit in this, as urban development edges out local wildlife and leaves them stranded in pockets of compromised habitat. 

Animals are left in a predicament: stay and struggle, or seek out shelter and sustenance elsewhere. This leads to an increase in urban encounters, some of them more troublesome than others. Roaming coyotes can threaten domestic pets, and larger herbivores (like mule deer) can wander into high-traffic areas. This leads to more traffic collisions, more “pest eradication”, and a breakdown of our community’s relationships with the local wildlife populations. 

What Can We Do?

Thankfully, our communities have a say. You can contribute to local efforts to protect our local wildlife and keep backyard sightings both rare and inspiring. 

If you’re looking for a way to help, here are a few ideas to get your started:

  • Participate in community forums when development projects are introduced, and demand that they take eco-friendly development measures (such as leaving a habitat buffer along developed areas like highways)
  • Encourage environmentally-smart urban development (such as roof gardens, public transport, communal spaces) in populated areas to provide an alternative to sprawl development projects 
  • Support conservation organizations who champion smart development
  • Keep trash well-bagged and only putting it out the night before/morning of pickup
  • Don’t feed or interact with wild animals

Let’s work together to make interactions with urban wildlife a rare — and exciting — occurrence again! When we support our local wildlife, we are ultimately supporting our community as well. 

Featured image: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr