Millions of people live in New York. The US metropolis resembles a concrete desert with hardly any room for nature. But the wilderness conquers the city – and there are surprising encounters.
Around 8.5 million people live in New York. Almost 11,000 of them jostle per square kilometer. A concrete desert with no space for green? No animals except rats, cockroaches, spoiled poodles, and zoo dwellers? Not even close. More and more wild animals are moving to the metropolis on the US east coast.
An eastern coyote in the snow
Coyotes, a member of the canine family, actually live in the prairie regions of central and western North America. But they are now being spotted more and more often in New York – and not just on the outskirts, but in the middle of Manhattan. Scientists from the Gotham Coyote Project estimate that nearly 20 of the mostly nocturnal animals live in the city, mostly in large parks.
Some of them had to be removed from inhabited areas with costly police operations. “They are here and they will stay,” says a police spokesman. “They’ve found a niche that no other predator has, and they’re controlling the rodent population, for example.” Most coyotes are harmless, the parks authority says, but you shouldn’t feed them anyway. Rather enjoy the sight, says the police spokesman. “If you see a coyote, you’re lucky. That’s something special.”
Each year the number of whales coming to the waters around New York has increased.
Most tourists are drawn to Manhattan’s high-rise buildings, but New York is also seaside and even has proper beaches — with surfers, sandcastles, and all the marine life that goes with them. However, whales and dolphins rarely come near the metropolis voluntarily.
Most of the time, it’s sick animals that get lost and then die pretty quickly – like the minke whale “Sludgie,” who swam into the Gowanus Canal, the most polluted body of water in the United States, in 2007 and died there. A few kilometers off the coast there are also many healthy animals that can be viewed on special tours. And binoculars are enough to see the many seals that sunbathe in front of the city, especially in winter.
An adult striped skunk standing beside vegetation
The black and white striped skunks are actually mostly found on the steppes of North America, but they’re also being spotted in New York with increasing frequency. Some even in the middle of Central Park, where they have sprayed free-roaming dogs with their stinking anal gland secretion. “Skunks are native New Yorkers,” says a spokesman for the New York Parks Department. “They’re part of the city’s wildlife.” Last year, police even rescued two baby skunks from a Bronx subway station. “You must have gotten lost on the way to the Bronx Zoo,” a police officer quipped on Twitter afterward.
An adult raccoon searching for its next meal
At first glance, raccoons look cute – but the City of New York warns against them: “Raccoons can have rabies and bite you or your pet. Raccoons can damage your home and property.” The animals have spread extremely in the metropolis. In 2015, the citywide emergency number received almost twice as many raccoon-related complaints and calls for help as the year before.
The animals have been sighted all over the city and even in restaurants. “They are amazing in their adaptability,” says Professor Samuel Zeveloff of Weber State University in Utah, who has written a book on raccoons.
Bald Eagles are the most widespread and easiest to spot during the winter. Their brown body and bright white head is easy to identify, however, they do not gain their white head until they are four years old. They build their huge nests in trees.
Despite the noise of cars, trucks, sirens, and 8.5 million people: You can also hear the birds chirping in New York – but differently. “The birds here are more likely to be disturbed and wake up earlier as a result,” says zoologist John Rowden of the New York-based Audubon Society, a bird association. “They wake up before sunrise, which is unusual.” Because of the noise and the crowds of other birds in close quarters, males often sing louder to demarcate their territory. “They want to stand out from the competition. Birds in New York are survivors.”
But despite the harsh conditions, the variety is immense: bird-lover and writer Jonathan Franzen has spotted dozens of species just from the window of his apartment in the Upper East Side district. In addition to the usual pigeons and sparrows, parrots have been documented – and even a bald eagle, the national bird of the USA, has been sighted. Probably the best known and most popular bird in New York is the “Pale Male”. The red-tailed hawk has nested at a luxury home on posh Fifth Avenue for decades and has become a tourist attraction.
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