Thursday, November 28. 2019
Why do raccoons and squirrels thrive in urban environments?
Living in a city provides certain animals with three main luxuries that their more wild neighbours simply do not have. For starters a city animal has less predators to worry about, such as coyotes, foxes and owls. There is also a tremendous variety and abundance of food available whether it be our garbage, handouts or the planted garden variety. Urban living also offers an abundance of den site opportunities in the way of attics, chimneys etc. By tearing and chewing their way into roof tops, city animals can stay safe from predators and be close to food sources.
These urban environment luxuries provide for a less stressful and longer life for urban animals than that of their forest living counterparts. Living longer means a reproductive female will be able to produce more offspring during her life time. Combining a longer life with easy access to food also results in healthier females giving birth to larger litters. It is more typical to see litter sizes of 5 to 7 offspring with city animals where litter sizes in the wild are only 2 or 3. It is for these reasons we see much higher populations in species like raccoons and squirrels in city neighbourhoods than is seen in the wild.
Animals do not make a conscious decision to live in the city but often urban development forces their hand. Raccoons and squirrels are quick to take advantage of the new resources available to them and if given the opportunity to return to the wild there would be no turning back. Continuous studies have shown that trying to relocate city animals back into the wild results in a low probability of survival. This is probably due to the fact that they have become so accustom to city living that have lost their ability to adapt to the harder way of life in the wild.
By Brad Gates, B.Sc.
Brad Gates is the owner and president of AAA Gates Wildlife Control. He has over 35 years experience in the humane wildlife removal and prevention industry.