Biodiversity Hotspot in the ‘Burbs?

Urban fox in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Alf Melin.
Urban fox in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Alf Melin.

Lauren Bailey – Society for Conservation Biology

Three years ago I moved with my family to Arlington, Virginia, minutes outside of the nation’s capital. I can see Reagan National Airport from my front yard, the Washington Monument looms in the not-too-far distance, and a major boulevard is only a block from my house. And yet, within days of moving in, neighbors excitedly started telling us to keep a watch out for the neighborhood foxes…and eagles…and ospreys. Every May we welcome the spring migration of songbirds—some species I’ve only ever seen in the rural forests of northern Michigan—and reluctantly endure the spring infestation of Lone Star and dog ticks. Last year my next-door neighbor found an American coot hunkered down under a canoe in his yard, and last month he photographed a doe and her fawn strolling carefully through the sparsely wooded hill that extends behind our backyards. Raccoons and opossums are frequent visitors, and owls and bats have been known to fly by. In our urban metropolis, it feels like we’re in the midst of a biodiversity hotspot.

You’ve probably heard the recent news pieces on urban wildlife encounters, like the coyote found walking on the roof of a New York City bar; the owl attacking residents on a Salem, Oregon, park trail; and the brawling black bears in a New Jersey suburb. Many wildlife species are adapting to and flourishing in urban and suburban areas, the result of a combination of factors: the extirpation of native predators, decreasing levels of hunting, and human encroachment on native habitat. Depending on the species in question, some residents are fearful or intolerant of wildlife entering their communities, while others (like me) are overjoyed to bring a little —> Read More