This post is part of KQED’s Do Now U project. Do Now U is a weekly activity for students and the public to engage and respond to current issues using social media. Do Now U aims to build civic engagement and digital literacy for learners of all ages. This post was written by Melissa Fuest, a student at George Mason University.

Featured Media Resource (above)
VIDEO: MinuteEarth

Why Do Some Species Thrive in Cities?
Learn about examples of how wildlife has adapted to cityscapes over the course of time.

Do Now U

How important is it to try to make densely populated cities more inviting to wildlife? #DoNowUWildlife

How to Do Now

To respond to the Do Now U, you can comment below or post your response on Twitter. Just be sure to include #DoNowUWildlife and @KQEDedspace in your posts.

Learn More about Wildlife in Urban Areas

More than 50 percent of the human population now lives in cities and that number is expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050. With our world’s rapidly growing urban areas, our collective ecological footprint increases and threatens the health and biodiversity of surrounding ecosystems. How can we offset the negative effects of human expansion? Perhaps one option is to bring conservation of the natural world into our cities. This could mean building wildlife corridors, creating and preserving city green space, or making our built environments safe for animals. In one sense, this creates advantages to both wildlife and humans that would otherwise not exist. However, sharing space with wildlife also causes concerns over human-wildlife conflicts.

There are a number of justifications for merging human environments with wildlife. For one, many cities are located in biodiversity “hotspots”, or areas of high concentrations of species diversity, so balancing human and wildlife needs could help preserve the unique ecosystems and species found in these areas. Conservation in cities could also bring opportunities for environmental education, and in turn inspire stewardship actions, to those who would otherwise be excluded from experiences in traditional, remote conservation spaces, such as preserves and wilderness areas. Research has even linked green spaces with higher psychological well-being in humans. And, some species offer valuable ecosystem services to society; take, for instance, a coyote’s appetite for rodents or a brown bat’s ability to devour large quantities of pesky bugs.

Raccoons have become very successful in living in urban areas.

While there are many arguments for encouraging wildlife in urban environments, there are just as many concerns. Close quarters with other mammals that may have diseases such as rabies or Lyme disease is a concern for both humans and pets. One recent study in a small town in Connecticut found that reducing the deer population by 87 percent or more reduced reports of Lyme disease in humans by 80 percent. Some people also worry about negative encounters between wildlife and pets or children, however there is little research about attack frequency on humans in the United States. Recent research that focused on human-coyote interactions in the Denver Metropolitan Area found that of 4,006 coyote reports, about 12 percent were attacks on pets and less than 1 percent were attacks on humans. Related studies found that there were less likely to be human-coyote conflicts in urban areas if they contained smaller amounts of highly developed areas and large amounts of forested and agricultural areas. Vehicle collisions and resulting injuries or fatalities for both wildlife and people are also an issue. It’s estimated that there are between one and two million collisions with big animals and cars every year in the United States. While many of these occur on rural roads, the number of collisions with animals increased 50 percent from 1990 to 2004. Another concern is the health of wildlife in cities as many animals such as raccoons and bears are attracted to–and feed on–trash.

How important is it to try to make densely populated cities more inviting to wildlife? Should wildlife be encouraged or discouraged to share space with humans?

More Resources

Video: WNET
Meet the Coywolf: The Coywolf and Its New York City Habitat 
In this episode of Nature, two researchers from a collaborative research group called the Gotham Coyote Project track coywolf activity in New York City.

Audio: NPR
Urban Coyotes Have Streetwise Ways
Hear first-hand accounts of encounters with urban coyotes, explore the ups and downs of living with these animals, and learn about their cryptic nature.

Article: The Guardian
Should Cities Be for Animals Too?
Modern cities become examples of how biodiversity in urban environments can be mutually beneficial to both humans and a variety of other animals.

Article: National Geographic
How Wild Animals Are Hacking Live in the City
See how urban wildlife, like coyotes, raccoons, birds and ants, has adapted to living in cities.

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KQED Do Now U is a bi-weekly activity in collaboration with SENCER. SENCER is a community of transformation that consists of educators and administrators in the higher and informal education sectors. SENCER aims to create an intelligent, educated, and empowered citizenry through advancing knowledge in the STEM fields and beyond. SENCER courses show students the direct connections between subject content and the real world issues they care about, and invite students to use these connections to solve today’s most pressing problems.

Should We Make Cities More Inviting to Wildlife? 14 July,2017SENCER
  • mzungu

    Say hello to rabies and ticks for your precious kids. LOL

  • Erica Duncan

    Erica Duncan – MUHon2020

    The article raises a lot of good points about the potential benefits of encouraging wildlife in urban areas, and I definitely see the opportunities in terms of the ecosystem services natural wildlife provides and the potential for societal growth towards sustainability. However, I think that the majority of the public would be too fearful to see wildlife like bears, coyotes, and raccoons openly encouraged in their city; educating the public on interacting with wildlife would be key to the success of the initiative.

    • Lindsey Smallwood

      I completely agree, a lot of the general public simply don’t know how to safely interact with wild animals (specifically: as little as possible). I would worry not only about the general fear it could cause the residents, but also about the actions of those who are not afraid but also not educated about animals. Those who would try to pet and play with wild animals. I think you are absolutely right, education would be the key to the success of this initiative.
      Lindsey Smallwood

      • Jodi DeMassa

        I think that it’d be a smart idea to educate people on these animals, but I also think that it’s necessary to learn how to deal with these animals, as we share the same land with them. #MyCMSTArgs

    • Jodi DeMassa

      I think that it’d be a good idea if we focused more on wildlife. I know that people would probably be scared to encounter bears, coyotes, and so on, but we are infringing on their lives. I don’t believe that the progress we’ve made towards creating industrial environments is good. We should definitely take some action to make sure there still is a good balance between our life and the wildlife’s environment. #MyCMSTArgs

  • Lindsey Smallwood

    What an interesting idea!! I love the idea of encouraging safer habitat for those animals which can comfortably live in urban areas. I think with enough safety precautions, it could work. Obviously it would be better for many of these animals to live in their natural habitats, such as woodlands, but with the human population ever increasing it might be a good idea to go ahead and start attempting to live among “wild” animals more harmoniously. As I said though, there would need to be several precautions taken. Animals can be very crafty, I’ve seen videos of bears opening doors and raccoons slipping in and out of containers thought to be “sealed”. It would be tricky to find ways to ensure that the wild animals couldn’t get into our things, for their safety as well as ours. Not to mention, the diseases do present an issue. We could have wildlife veterinarians attempt to vaccinate the populations living among us within the cities, however this would be difficult, time consuming, and costly. In the end, it’s a very interesting idea, but not exactly easy or practical to implement. I think it would need to be done little by little, over time.
    Lindsey Smallwood

  • Jodi DeMassa

    I agree that we should integrate wildlife with our lives, but I don’t believe that wildlife should be integrated with cities such as San Francisco because of how many people occupy it. I think that we should be more weary about our use of space and how many city-clusters are forming, thus taking up the natural environment. I think that we should slow down the build-up of cities to do this. Animal education would be a smart requirement, as all of us should know what to do if there’s an event where a bear or a coyote comes into town. We shouldn’t be ignorant to nature either. #MyCMSTArgs

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