Wildlife in the big city

The other day I was working at home in the north side of Chicago. Sitting at my desk in my fourth-floor apartment at around 5:30, I heard my neighbor coming up the back stairs. I didn’t really think about her until I heard a blood-curdling scream. And not just a brief little scream of surprise. It was long horrified scream, breath, continued scream, breath, more screaming. With some gibbering thrown in.

I rushed to my back door as the screams were already receding down the stairs. I looked out my window, and crouched at the end of the landing was a raccoon. A pretty big one – probably a twenty pounder. It’s funny: your brain immediately assumes ‘cat’ when faced with something that size and shape, but then there’s a brief instant of “hey, that’s the biggest cat ever” and then “that’s a strangely shaped face for a cat,” and finally “oh, it’s not a cat.”

Anyway, I went back into my apartment to get some pants. (I was working from home. Sue me.) I went out to shoo him away, but by the time I got out there, he was already ambling down the stairs.

I’ve seen raccoons around Chicago before, but only in parks by the lake. Never a full mile from the shore with no parks or anything nearby. Though it’s only a mile, so I guess I probably shouldn’t be surprised. And yes, I know raccoons aren’t that exotic.

Does anyone else have any stories of urban encounters with non-urban animals?

My town isn’t a big city (population around 25-30K), but it was still odd a few years ago when moose took up residence in a cemetery right smack in the middle of town. It would wallow around in the decorative pond and scare the visitors.

Live in Alaska sometime. You’ll discover that the phrase “non-urban animals” is a non starter. After the third time the bears got in my garbage and the second time I almost hit a moose on the way to work, I stopped thinking of any animal as “non-urban.” :smiley:

I live in a city of around 18,000, sounded by towns and boroughsof similar sizes. One size I was out walking and found myself standing about 5 feet away from a half-grown deer. We just stood there looking at each other. I was afraid to move for fear of being attacked. A car went by and the deer took off.

I called 911, and the dispatcher told me “Yeah, we’ve been getting calls about this all morning.”

BTW, raccons and possums are common roadkill around here.

Last week I came back from a run to have two deer standing there. That’s fairly common. Racoons have the run of the place. People feed them and even take the babies into their homes and raise them. A red fox can be seen occasionally. The red foxes are always there and watching. If they let you see them, they could be sick. And coyotes run in packs or by twos. Every year somebody gets bitten by a coyote. I live in a city, but right on a big park. This doesn’t qualify as very strange, but last week I saw a hawk drop down to attack a squirrel. The squirrel moved to fast. I have it all on video.

Everywhere I’ve lived, raccoons and possums have both been “urban animals.” I’ve seen coyotes on occasion in recently developed areas, and when I lived in Frisco, TX, the yard (and every yard and field nearby) had rabbits living in them, which I’m sure were why the coyotes were around. We’d also see rather big birds of prey- red-tailed hawks and the like.

Even in Dallas proper, where I live now, seeing armadillos, raccoons and possums is not unusual, although many times, it’s as roadkill on city streets.

Haven’t seen any deer yet though.

Don’t need to be in Alaska for that. We’ve seen bears in our yard, and though we live on some acreage, we’re still in town. There’s a Target and a WalMart not a mile away, for example.

I think there’s a lot more animals living in most towns in the US than anyone might think.

No kidding. I was in the middle of Anchorage and saw that stuff every day. Although bears are rare where I live now, we still get mountain lions prowling the campus late at night on occasion.

I’m in East Dallas ** waves at bump ** and being near a lake we see more wildlife than you think of living in the DFW area. Saw a roadrunner sauntering through someone’s front yard a few years ago, and one morning Mr. Horseshoe and I saw a gray fox - I think those are the two most exotic things I’ve seen.

There are a few colonies of monk parakeets around here … does that count? Also, suburbs ringing the DFW area often get bobcat reports, and coyotes are not uncommon. (Keep your little dogs and cats in at night, people.)

Back when I had my ferrets, the vet I went to was just awesome. (BTW, PM me if anyone needs the name of a good vet for exotics.) I was complimenting him on his, well, bedside manner with ferrets, and he casually mentioned he had a semi-domesticated mink at home, at which point, a mere ferret is just no big whoop. He told me someone had found the mink by the lake and brought it to him. A mink!

Strangest thing I saw when I lived in Milwaukee was a beautiful buck (with antler rack and everything) just racing down a street by the lake, not far from UWM. Very unexpected. And I think the poor guy was terrified.

Suburban Chicago. Raccoons are very common, though I don’t see them a lot where I live now (they’re there though, tearing through the garbage). Muskrats are pretty common too, but they stay in wetlands for the most part. I’ve seen deer crossing major roads more than two miles from any nature preserve.

I used to live a little farther from the city where the wildlife was more prevalent. One night I saw a weird creature climbing my fence. I couldn’t imagine what it was–some kind of mutated rat or a creature from another planet? It was a possum. D’oh! Eventually I got used to seeing them, and when I had a roomate with a dog, we saw the dog shaking the possum in the backyard. Thinking it was a cat (a lot of outdoor cats in that neighborhood), we rushed out to stop the dog and send it into the house. The possum just lay there, lifeless. My roommate said he would clean up the carcass, but I suggested we go in the house and come back a few minutes later. Sure enough, the possum had been playing possum.

I live in north Dallas (big what up to bump and purplehorseshoe) and I’ve seen rabbits in the bushes on the train station near the High Five. There’s a wooded area and creek adjacent to the train station where I saw what I think was a bobcat but nobody believes me. Also, everyone in my apartment complex received a notice on their door to keep an eye on theirs pets when they’re outside. It seems a hawk took someone’s dog for dinner.

I’m inside the beltway in the DC area. I’ve seen many deer in the neighborhood. Also, foxes, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, you name it. I’m pretty sure all of those are urban wildlife. However, the most surprised I’ve been by a wild critter was the time I opened the front door late one evening to call the cats and there was a possum sitting on the porch smiling up at me. Yikes!

One morning, back when I lived in Chicago, I was walking to the bus in my usual half awake state. A squirrel ran across the sidewalk in front of me. I thought, “That squirrel has an awfully skinny tail.” A step or two later, I thought, “That wasn’t a squirrel, it was a really big mouse.” Another step or two, and I thought, “Holy shit! Really big mice are called rats! That was a rat that almost ran over my feet!” I decided it was too late to scream, though.

I’ve seen a cow swim across a river into a house’s back garden before. Sadly we moved on before I could see the family’s reaction.

There have been beavers (or Muskrats) in Harvard Square in Cambridge.
Wildlife in the city is no surprise. the AMNH press put out a book called The Natural History of New York City back in the 1960s (Not the same as the recent Manahatta), detailing the surprising diversity of wildlife in the city boundaries.

A bear cub up a tree in the urban core of Thunder Bay, and a moose running around the streets and eventually ending up in a swimming pool in a highly developed residential area of Sudbury.

Some animals seem to get along, even thrive, in urban environments or on the fringes of them. Raccoons, deer and coyotes come to mind. Animals like porcupines and skunks feel they are immune from danger, too, but that is probably not to their advantage when mixing with humans, some of whom actively seek to destroy those species.

The story is told locally of Reggie, the Ruffed Grouse (R.G. = Reggie), who befriended a family and attached himself like a dog. Unfortunately he met his demise when an electric garage door closed on his neck as he came to visit once.

I’m from the Virginia suburbs of DC. I think it qualifies as fairly “urban”, because it was just off U.S. Route 1. Around there, a bloodcurdling scream in the middle of the night means the foxes are afoot (they make a horrifying scream-like noise). The kits underneath the woodpile were fuzzy and adorable. As were the wee little raccoons snuffling up to the back door to see if there was food around. It’s less adorable when they chew through the plastic lids of the trash bins to eat our garbage and strew it across the driveway.

The best wildlife moments though came from the deer - seeing a majestic stag make its silent way through the backyard or two does watching their fawns feed on the ivy. Either that, or the red-tailed hawk. Or the bald eagle (I guess the government likes to keep a mating pair in DC because they’re a national symbol.)

Here in south Chicago we don’t have too much wildlife other than the biggest, fattest, meanest squirrels I’ve ever seen. But there are some feral cats.

My parents, in Lexington KY, installed a cat door and I warned them against it because of the racoons. They didn’t listen and a few years later my mother heard a noise. Sure enough, Rocky Racoon McMaskface Dillinger was at the kitchen table having breakfast.

Last year there was a moose running around downtown Calgary for a while.

That was fun.