Wildlife in Residence


Photo by CGIOS

Yes, that’s a rat. Sitting on the skylight. Had the skylight been open, as it often is, he would have fallen right into my roommate’s bedroom. Eep. I thought he was cute-I could see the silhouette of each little toe on his paws-but my roommate was not amused. At all. We had him removed promptly, and the skylights have not been opened since.

DC is surrounded by wildlife, not just the usual rat and pigeon suspects. Rock Creek Park, which slices across the city, is 1700 acres of woods and streams. When wandering down in the woods, the air is noticeably cooler and it is almost easy to forget that you are in the middle of a city. The park is a perfect place for wildlife to hang out away from the danger and bustle of the city streets.  DC is also bordered by Great Falls Park and many other wooded areas, so it’s no wonder animals might wander surprisingly close to human dwellings.

The birds are the most fascinating and the easiest guests to deal with. I react as if to a celebrity sighting whenever I come nose to beak with our neighborhood peregrine falcon. My backyard is filled with cardinals, woodpeckers, catbirds, and robins. A saw-whet owl even showed up on a neighbor’s back doorstep last year, sparking major jealousy in THIS one.

Some wildlife might find themselves more welcome than others. Yesterday, a 100 pound black bear wandered into people’s yards just three miles from my house. (I think I’d rather see bears at my family’s house in Petersburg, Alaska, because the view behind the bear is prettier there.) And in May, DCist reported about rat snakes falling out of trees in Adams Morgan. The coyotes are getting closer, too, some attacking pets in the surrounding suburbs.

Deer, rodents, and a random assortment of birds are visible daily city residents. But coyotes and bears?!

So what do you do when you cross paths with savory and unsavory animal characters?

1. If they are too close for your comfort, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE ANIMALS YOURSELF. They could be sick and, even if they are not sick, they might still bite or scratch in self-defense. Call 311.

2. Is that raccoon, etc, acting a little strange? If you suspect an animal is sick with rabies, contact DC Animal Care & Control at 202-576-6664. Note where the animal is while staying at a safe distance from it.

3. The DC Department of Health site provides tips for securing your property from urban wildlife.

4. For the animals’ sake, be aware of sharing spaces. For example, when clearing vines from hedges, be careful not to rip out birds’ nests. (Been there, done that, cried.)

Otherwise, enjoy the sightings as something special about our wonderful and exciting city.

P.S. If you find the topic of wildlife in the city intriguing, check out Marie Winn’s Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife.

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