Often we think we need to get out of towns and cities to observe wildlife, but we are occasionally reminded that many species of animals do quite well in urban settings. The Canada goose (the topic of a recent Natural North Dakota) is one example of a species that does very well in urban environments.
The geese are quite noticeable and visible, but some urban residents may not be so easily observed. I have been thinking about that since seeing a couple raccoons and skunks near our home recently.
The urban landscape is often an attractive place for wild animals. Cities generally contain few natural predators and often have suitable habitat and a wide array of available food ranging from gardens to garbage. An area in the Twin Cities is often cited as having the highest population density of white-tailed deer in Minnesota. And urban coyotes have been in the news in the past few years. Some of you may recall “Hal” the coyote that led officials on a wild coyote chase in Central Park. Plus the coyote population in Chicago has been estimated to be in the thousands.
But in in our region, the raccoon must rank at or near the top of animals that have made it big in cities and towns. Raccoons are among the more opportunistic omnivores. They eat a wide range of items ranging from seeds, fruits and vegetables, to frogs and fish as well other small animals. And as most gardenres know, they are well known raiders of gardens, particarly for the sweet corn. Then of course, there is a treasure trove of food left outdoors for dogs and cats as well as the garbage. I bet those raccoons are just giddy with excitement the night before the weekly garbage pickup.
They may not be observed regularly, but if you live in a town or city in our region there is a good chance some raccoons are living near you. For example, raccoon sightings and encounters have been making the news in Fargo recently. Some of you may even recall that a raccoon was discovered to be the cause of the mysteriously disappearing roses in a cemetery in Fargo last summer. Raccoons have also been in the Winnipeg news over the past few months. It seems that these masked bandits are making themselves right at home in towns and cities across the U.S. and Canada.
But the raccoon capital of the world is not Fargo or Winnipeg. That distinction probably goes to Toronto where at least one source reported that the city supports fifty times more raccoons than the surrounding countryside. So if that is even remotely close to applicable in our area, you probably have a better chance of seeing a raccoon in a city or town than out in the country.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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