Out Walking the Dog is pleased to announce that Megan Draheim of Washington, D.C. is the winner of our first Urban Nature Contest.
The entry was selected at random with the help of, who else, the dog.
Megan is a wildlife biologist who works on the social dimensions of conservation biology with a special interest in urban biodiversity and human-wildlife conflict. Her doctoral research focused on social conflict over coyotes in suburban Denver. Megan writes the blog Our Urban Jungle. Here is her description of nocturnal encounters with urban wildlife, often occasioned by having to walk the dogs:
It’s always nice to get a reminder of how lucky I am to live in an urban area that’s so rich with wildlife. Since many critters stay hidden during the day, some of my favorite sightings (and “hearings”) have been late (very late) at night, especially if I’m out walking dogs. For example, I never would have been out right after an ice storm at 1:30 in the morning if it weren’t for the dogs, but that’s how I saw my first wild coyote. We had been slipping-and-sliding up and down our hill on an abbreviated walk, and when I put them inside I went back out with some pet-friendly “salt” to lay down on our front walk. The dogs had pushed open the door and were watching me through the storm door, when suddenly their ears pricked up and they started to stare intensely at something behind me. I turned and saw this gorgeous coyote trotting up the hill across the street from our house — just gliding along effortlessly (as a reminder, the dogs and I had not been nearly as graceful trying to navigate the sidewalk moments before!).
Just a few nights ago I heard a red fox calling late at night (for those of you who have never heard a red fox, they can sound eerily like a woman screaming), and a month or two ago a red fox flew across the street in front of us, going from one wooded area behind some houses towards a park a few blocks away.
We’ve seen deer aplenty, of course — deer peeking out of neighbors’ backyards, deer grazing on front lawns, deer ambling across streets. And opossums and racoons. But my favorite late-night sightings are the wild predators who share our neighborhood. It’s a different way to experience urban wildlife, when they can take more ownership of the land than in the middle of the day when there are lots of people around. And it’s a reminder that we do share the land with them — it is theirs just as much as it is ours.
Thank you to everyone entered. The entries have been such a pleasure to read that I plan to share more of the stories over the course of the next day or two.
And congratulations, Megan. Your copy of Still the Same Hawk: Reflections on Nature and New York will go in the mail today. Enjoy!