Posted tagged ‘feeding wild animals’

Keep Wild Dolphins Wild

March 19, 2013
Dolphin in NYC's East River. Photo: Melissa Cooper

Dolphin in NYC’s East River. Photo: Melissa Cooper

In light of the continued presence in the East River of at least one dolphin, the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation reminds us that dolphins “are wild animals and should be treated as such.”

It’s only natural to feel a thrill at the sight of a magnificent, intelligent and charismatic wild animal right off the bustling shores of our huge city. We want to take photographs and shoot video to share our awe at the beauty and power of a free-swimming whale in our urban waterways.  We may feel the urge to get closer to the animal, whether to get a better shot, to feel more spiritually connected with another species, or just to heighten the thrill. But as we marvel at the animal’s presence, we must be sure that our impulses are moderated by respect for the dolphin’s independent existence and concern for its welfare.  This means: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE and DO NOT FEED THE DOLPHIN.

Here is an amusing Public Service Announcement sponsored by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association):

Most problems with wild animals – whether raccoons, geese, squirrels, pigeons, coyotes, bears or dolphins –  arise when the animal learns to associate humans and their habitations with food.  We landlubbers may not be accustomed to thinking of dolphins in this way. But dolphins that come to associate humans with food are more likely to approach boats and be injured, sometimes fatally, by entanglements with fishing hooks or lines or collisions with propellers.  According to NOAA, “feeding wild dolphins disrupts their social groups which threatens their ability to survive in the wild. Young dolphins do not survive if their mothers compete with them for handouts and don’t teach them to forage.” And from the point of view of human safety, dolphins bite. Powerfully. If those reasons don’t move you, maybe this will: It’s against the law.

For more information on wild dolphins and their interactions with humans, visit NOAA’s website, Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins.

For more on issues of feeding wild animals in NYC, read How Our Trash Kills Our Hawks, How Many Raccoons Live in Manhattan, Anyway?, New York Rats and Garbage, and Feeding Wild Animals: Squirrel Man Calls to his Friends.

IMG_0310

Pedestrian Bridge to Randall’s Island.

Meanwhile, I recommend a walk along the East River or up the 103rd Street pedestrian bridge to see if you can catch a glimpse (from a respectful distance, of course) of NYC’s marine visitors.

I haven’t heard any reports today, so don’t know for sure if a dolphin still swims the river from the 90s to 103rd Street between Queens and Manhattan. Should you be lucky enough to see it (or them), please call Riverhead Foundation’s sighting hotline at (631) 369-9829.

Oh, and then let me know by leaving a comment here on the blog or sending an email to: outwalkingthedognyc@gmail.com. Thanks!

Most Popular Urban Nature Stories of 2011: Numbers 10 – 6

December 30, 2011

Today and tomorrow, we’re celebrating another year of watching New York City’s urban wildlife by looking back at Out Walking the Dog’s Top Stories of 2011.  The articles include mastodons, chihuahua-carrying hawks, whales, coyotes, rodents, burdock, peacocks and the secret garden of St. John the Divine. Today I’ll count down from Number Ten through Number Six. Tomorrow I’ll cover Numbers Five through One.

Ladies and gentlemen, let the countdown begin:

Number 10:
In the Number Ten spot, we have a tie between two very different stories.

NYC Coyote Existential: Where Do They Come From and Where are They Going? explores recent scientific research behind the origins of the coyotes that are populating the Northeast and have begun turning up in NYC. Prompted by my own sightings of a young female coyote in Central Park, the story features several of D. Bruce Yolton’s marvelous night photos that capture the odd, dream-like quality of seeing a coyote in our urban world.

Seed Pods and Eyeballs offers a brief exploration of the marvelous Sweetgum tree with its ubiquitous (in Riverside Park, anyway) spiky seedpods, known as monkey balls, porcupine eggs and space balls, among other colorful names. I was inspired to write the post by a reader’s query about the starry eyes of a snowman in a photo from an earlier post.

Number 9:
Feeding Wild Animals: Squirrel Man Calls To His Friends
looks at the problems of over-population, habituation to humans, and disease that may be caused by feeding urban wildlife. But the story also observes the profound pleasure and connection to nature that many people derive from the activity.  Does the pleasure balance the harm?

Number 8:
The Burry Man, The Burry Dog and Burdock
is a personal favorite. After an unpleasant encounter with burrs in Riverside Park (the dog was covered in them), I researched burdock, and found the bizarre annual British ritual of the burry man. Check out the story for more than you ever wanted to know about burrs along with photos of a burr-encrusted dog and the marvelous real-life burry man.

Number Seven:
Saint John the Divine: A Secret Garden in Morningside Heights
is a photo essay of one of my favorite neighborhood spots in the glory of spring bloom. Free-roaming peacocks, bronze animals and more: read the story and plan a visit.

Number Six:
Whales in New York City
details the thrilling return of whales to the waters of New York, including the presence of a group of 30 to 50 fin whales just past the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

Check back on January 31st – tomorrow!  – for the top five stories of the year.

NYC Coyote Watch 2011: Coyote in Queens

January 24, 2011

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about how it’s just about time for New Yorkers to go back on coyote watch.

Well, the coyotes beat me to the punch.

Queens coyote by Marcelo Barrera, NY Post

While I’ve been dawdling, the animals have been on the move.  The first New York City coyote of the season was spotted this past weekend in Queens. Yes, Queens.

It’s around this time each year, in the heart of winter, that parent coyotes kick out the pups that were born the previous spring.

Lounging coyote pups by Ecobirder (click photo to visit site with more wonderful photos)

While the parents get ready to provide for the next litter, the almost-yearlings go out in search of new territory.  With coyote populations expanding and natural habitat shrinking, the wild dogs are increasingly making their home in suburbs and cities.  Last winter, several coyotes were spotted in Manhattan with one animal taking up residence for weeks in Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary before being captured downtown in Tribeca.

Coyote in Central Park by D. Bruce Yolton, urbanhawks.com

The New York Post reported yesterday that a coyote has been seen in Cavalry Cemetery in Woodside, Queens.  Cemeteries and golf courses offer good habitat for a coyote’s natural prey, including rabbits, squirrels, mice and other rodents.  Many experts have said that Long Island, is the only large land mass in New York State that is not home to coyotes.  No longer. Whether New Yorkers realize it or not, Queens is on Long Island.

But how did the coyote get to Queens?  A large breeding population exists in Westchester with a small population in the Bronx.  Last winter’s Manhattan coyotes may have crossed from the Bronx to Manhattan via the railroad bridge,  or they may have swum across. No one knows for sure.

One possible route for the Queens coyote would be to cross from Mott Haven and Port Harris in the Bronx to Randall’s and Ward’s Islands and from Ward’s to Queens.

The coyote was spotted in a graveyard in Woodside.

Reader, what do you think? If you have a better idea about How the Coyote Came to Queens, please leave a comment.

Last winter, I had the good fortune to watch the Hallett coyote on several occasions, as it made its way out of the sanctuary after dark to hunt for food.  Watching a coyote go about its business in the middle of a bustling city is a strange and magical event, as you can see in Bruce Yolton’s photos and videos of the Central Park coyote.

Central Park Coyote. Photo by D. Bruce Yolton, urbanhawks.com

Coyotes now live in cities throughout the U.S., including downtown Chicago as this video attests.  An enlightened supervisor for Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control said of the coyote running through city streets at night, “He’s not a threat….His job is to deal with all of the nuisance problems, like mice, rats and rabbits.”

Rats by Blek le Rat

Coyotes are naturally wary of humans. Problems with wildlife generally occur when the animals lose their distrust and come to see humans as a food source.  No, I don’t mean we ourselves are food, but that we provide food, whether directly (“Here, pretty doggy, have a treat”) or indirectly, by leaving garbage – or small pets  – unsecured.

Tasty morsels belong indoors.

As natural habitats shrink, we will increasingly be sharing space with wild animals.  Coyotes are successfully adapting to our presence. We had better start figuring out how to adapt to theirs.

Meanwhile, don’t feed the animals.

Sign in a park in Vancouver, B.C.

Again with the Central Park Rabies Advisory

October 4, 2010

Strolling in Central Park with Esau yesterday morning, I was surprised to encounter dramatic new “Rabies Advisory” signs on lamp posts along the western edge of the park.

The new signs scream “Rabies” in multiple languages (La Rage! Rabbia! Tollwut!) and feature a realistic line drawing of a hulking raccoon that could probably hold its own as a National Football League center.

Last winter, when it had become clear that Manhattan was in the midst of a raccoon rabies epidemic, bright green signs appeared on park lamp posts, urging visitors to “Leave Wildlife Alone.”

Note the cute little cartoon-like drawing of a raccoon head and the small lettering for the words “rabies advisory.”

The new signs are striking, easy to read and, well, kind of scary. But why scare us now?  The epidemic appears to be mostly over, thanks to USDA’s humane and labor-intensive program to individually trap, vaccinate and release Manhattan’s healthy raccoons.  Over 130 already-infected raccoons have died off  since summer 2009, while the remaining, much-decreased, vaccinated population should serve as a barrier that prevents the disease from reaching epidemic proportions.

After a monthly high of 38 reported rabies cases in March 2010, the numbers began to decline.  June and July saw three rabies cases each, and August became Manhattan’s first rabies-free month since November 2009.

So I repeat, why the scary new signs?  Well, it ain’t over till it’s over and with rabies these days, it may never be completely over.  In early September, a single rabid raccoon was found in Central Park in the West 70s, reminding us just how difficult it is to eradicate a disease with a long incubation period.  And to maintain effectiveness, we’ll probably need an annual vaccination program to ensure that new babies are trapped and immunized.

But even if we were to succeed in immunizing the entire resident raccoon population, raccoon rabies is now endemic across the eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine. Raccoons and other wild animals, including skunks and coyotes, regularly find their way from the mainland to Manhattan, as juveniles seek new territory.  They cross the railroad bridge from the Bronx or swim a narrow channel. If in their travels, they have been in contact with a rabid animal, they will again bring rabies to our island paradise.

So heed the scary signs, and leave wildlife alone.  Enjoy the raccoons, but don’t feed them or try to lure them closer so you can get a better photo.

And while we’re at it, it’s probably better not to feed any of our urban wildlife, except maybe small migrating songbirds.

Grazing geese take over the outfield in Morningside Park

Feeding by humans encourages animals to overpopulate, which makes us consider them pests that need to be eradicated, as in this summer’s killing of geese in Prospect Park.  Unnaturally dense populations allow disease to flourish and spread.  So if you have a soft spot for  geese, raccoons, pigeons, squirrels and other urban wildlife, do the animals a favor and stop feeding them.

Red-eared sliders, expecting crumbs, mass beneath the Turtle Pond overlook

If you don’t have a soft spot for animals, count yourself lucky that we don’t yet have a need for these signs in Manhattan:

Sign in Vancouver, Canada proclaims: Warning! Coyotes in the Area

Then again, coyotes love goose eggs, so maybe you goose-haters want to roll out the coyote welcome mat. After all, as the sign says, coyotes are “smart, fast, and will take what they can get.”

Welcome or not, coyotes will be back in Manhattan. If not this winter, then next.  They may be here already, slipping through the old growth of Inwood Park and the tangles of Highbridge.

Esau contemplates ducks as a possible food source.

Blog Carnivals and Festivals

April 2, 2010

“Out walking the dog” is participating in several blog carnivals this week.

The post, Feeding Wild Animals: Squirrel Man Calls to his Friends is part of “I and the Bird #122”.

(“I and the Bird” takes its name from a poem by Eleanor Vere Boyle, a nineteenth-century British poet and illustrator:

“A tiny wren was among the Chrysanthemums this morning,
noiselessly flitting in and out, like a little shade;
evidently in a state of the highest enjoyment.
No doubt I and the bird both took our pleasure with them in different ways!”)

The recent post, Mastodons in Manhattan, is part of both  “Carnival of Evolution #22,” and “Festival of the Trees #46“.  Many of the posts in “Carnival of Evolution” have a scientific bent, as you might expect from the title. This edition of “Festival of the Trees”, on the other hand, focuses on humorous pieces.

Visit the carnivals and enjoy the rides.


%d bloggers like this: