Suburban yards are now filled with foxes, feral cats, deer, coyotes, rabbits, and other critters than used to live in the woods. This is not only because we've hunted their predators to extinction, but also because we no longer clear-cut the land before building on it. In other words, many of us are now living IN the woods and sharing it with a variety of wild animals.
This is even true in big cities: 24% of New York City is now covered by over 5 million trees.
In the February 21st edition of the New York Review of Books, Russell Baker writes: "In the past fifty years or less, all these woodland creatures seem to have discovered that life among the humans can be just as comfortable as it is in the forest, and the eating perhaps even easier. The woods have no garbage cans and dumpsters filled with discarded food, no lovingly tended tomato plants, no ready-to-pluck dahlias and nasturtiums, no tasty, newly planted shrubs."
During America's first 250 years, early settlers cleared away millions of acres of forest, yet by the 1950s, half or more of that landscape was reforested.
As the trees grew back, the wildlife moved back in--often causing problems like deer tick-borne lyme disease. By the 1990s, the deer population in the US was estimated to be between 25 to 40 million. Deer damage to farm crops and forests costs more than $850 million--deer have eaten $250 million worth of landscaping.
Problems often come with in an unexpected place--from birds: A blue heron moved into a suburban neighborhood and started eating all the koi out of landscaped ponds. Baker reports that "the local newspaper has arrived with a front-page headline declaring, 'Vultures Take Over Leesburg Neighborhood.' Some 250 of these valuable but socially insufferable birds, it states, have 'taken over' a residential area--'stripping bark off trees, eating rubber off roofs, cars, hot tub, pool, and boat covers and destroying grills.'"
A town in upstate New York grew so frustrated by an infestation of loud, honking Canada geese that it hired sharpshooters from New Jersey to cull them. Animals lovers protested, bringing in TV cameras to witness what they called the "goose holocaust."
However, geese have lost many of their advocates since several of them were sucked into the engines of a jet leaving LaGuardia Airport in 2009, forcing an emergency landing on the Hudson River.
Are there MORE than ordinary critters hiding back there? Is someone fighting back? (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to both of these shows and they can also get this beautiful hardcover for less than $5!)