You Don’t Need to Travel to the Wilderness to See These Wild Animals

Bobcat Wanders Through a Backyard in Washington

Your answer: 200 miles per hour

Yep, that’s right! Read more about the peregrine falcon and other urban wildlife below.

Your answer: 100 miles per hour

Sorry, that’s wrong. It’s actually 200 miles per hour! Read more about the peregrine falcon and other urban wildlife below.

By Dani Tinker

We all want to see wildlife. I travel to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to find salamanders and Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge for avocets and bald eagles. But we forget that cities are complex ecosystems with perhaps unexpected levels of biodiversity. Many wild animals are living right alongside us in urban spaces. Walking around my neighborhood in northern Virginia I’ve been startled by a hawk swooping down and stunned to witness the silhouette of a fox trotting across the street. They remind us how important it is to keep our urban areas healthy. Here are just a few wild animals you might see around town!

Peregrine Falcon

Not all of us can keep up with the speed of the city, but that’s not a problem for peregrine falcons, who can reach over 200 miles per hour while diving for prey. Tall buildings and ledges provide suitable nest sites and prey is abundant, helping these powerful aerial predators succeed in urban spaces. In fact, Chicago has embraced the peregrine falcon as its official city bird, while nest cams featuring the bird are up and running in Baltimore, New York, and Boston.

Gray Foxes

You’re probably familiar with red foxes, but you may not know much about their shy and charismatic relative—the gray fox. While the red fox has proven its ability to thrive in urban environments, the gray fox is still learning to adapt. Gray foxes in the San Francisco area and in suburban areas across the country seem to be catching on quickly. You might need to look up to see one, though, as they’re completely adept at climbing trees.

Bobcats

These carnivores are known as one of North America’s most successful predators because they are adaptable and opportunistic. Bobcats will thrive anywhere food is available—even urban spaces and backyards. You may not see them as often as other wildlife because of their solitary and reclusive nature, but they are increasingly present in towns and suburbs. Researchers in cities like Dallas are conducting research to understand urban bobcats better.

Butterflies

Sadly, unlike the success stories of foxes and falcons, many butterfly populations are vanishing from urban landscapes. Volunteers are stepping up to change that before it’s too late. Last month alone, SCA projects created more than 10,000 native seed balls to support pollinator species with food and habitat near cities. Butterflies are happy visitors to gardens in urban spaces and backyards, so if you’re looking for an up-close look, attract them by planting native flowers.

Opossums

A city marsupial? That’s pretty neat. What opossums lack in fluffiness they make up for in usefulness. A single opossum can eliminate 4,000 ticks per week, according to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Their diet of pests also include cockroaches and rodents. Opossums are mostly immune to rabies and venom produced by rattlesnakes. Not to mention, I find it adorable when young opossums ride on their mother’s back, I don’t care what anyone says.

Coyotes

Nearly thirty years ago, Chicago barely had any coyotes and now they’re present throughout the city. Coyotes are actually found in most cities in the United States—even New York City. Urban coyotes can make do with slivers of parks and green spaces, patching them together to form a complete habitat. While coyotes in the wild can be active throughout the day, urban coyotes have adjusted to being active mostly at night to avoid humans.

Conserve Urban Green Spaces

Wildlife are increasingly dependent on urban green spaces to survive and it’s important to keep these areas healthy. Across the country young conservationists are working in their local communities to restore parks, waterfronts, and urban landscapes through SCA Community Crews.


Interested in joining a Community Crew? Check out the opportunities the SCA has available for summer and school year programs. These experiences can set you on the path to other SCA opportunities, like National Crews and Conservation Internships!