Meet Your New Nocturnal, Rat-Eating Neighbors

City dwellers all over the world will have to get used to sharing their downtown promenades and piazzas with hairy beasts of the night.

Coyote in Chicago's Lincoln Park. Photo by John Picken

In “Werewolves of London,” Warren Zevon says he “saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s. His hair was perfect.” Fortunately, most urban predators have not yet developed a taste for blended alcoholic beverages or fancy coiffure, but city dwellers all over the world will still have to increasingly get used to sharing their downtown promenades and piazzas with hairy beasts of the night. This week National Geographic has an interesting piece on Chicago’s urban coyotes—after dwindling habitats first drove them into the bird-and-squirrel bonanza of the suburbs, these crafty canines have now moved on to a more cosmopolitan lifestyle, prowling the late-night streets of the Windy City. These downtown dogs have actually adapted their behavior to this new environment, shifting to a nocturnal schedule that avoids the daytime rush, and learning how to cross high-traffic roads. They’re "pushing their ecological envelope," Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecologist at Ohio State University in Columbus told National Geographic. Gehrt estimates the population of the coyotes to be about 2,000, and has been studying their behavior by affixing the animals with GoPro cameras.

Photo by Flickr user Steve K

Meanwhile, London is home to almost 10,000 beautiful red foxes, which began to populate the area in the 1930s, when expanding suburbs started encroaching into outlying fox habitats. Despite the nuisance caused by the animals (every so often, they are blamed for property damage or attacking small dogs, and last year a fox attacked a child) many Londoners are fond of the scurrying critters. A recent suggestion by the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson, that the foxes be culled was met with anger and resentment, though cheered on by upper class twits, who have been dying to kill some small, defenseless animals since the UK’s ban on traditional fox hunts 10 years ago.

Fisher in the woods near Ipswich, Mass. Photo by Flickr user Brunop

New York City, determined to have the most obscure, and thus hippest urban animals, has recently seen the return of fishers, small, furry omnivorous beasts that have been spotted more and more frequently around the Bronx. Though fishers actually lived in Manhattan back in the city’s early days, the animals were prized for their fur, and their population soon dwindled, vanishing altogether from the area for centuries. But restrictions on trapping the adorable little weasels have caused their population to boom across the Northeast, and due to fishers’ love of both tunnels and chowing down on rats (both abundant in NYC) they are sure to fit right in to their new urban home.


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