Monday, March 16, 2009

Life in the Urbs

Pinellas County, with 910,260 residents packed into 280 square miles, is Florida’s most densely populated urban area. Yet, here among the locals and seasonal snow-birds lives a surprising variety of other wild fauna.

Ospreys, large fish hawks, have made a remarkable comeback in only twenty years. Now there are so many of these spectacular raptors that coastal cities have begun building nesting platforms. I hear their keening cry even now outside my window.

Development near the Everglades pushed hundreds of wood storks northward in search of unpolluted water and isolated nesting sites. Magnificent in flight, storks on land shuffle along, hunched over like old men at the mall.

Alligators have gotten the most press, for there remains something scary primeval about the aquatic reptiles. Having been on the threatened list for much of the 20th Century, gators today are mostly protected and roam Pinellas lakes and back yards.

The latest critter to take up residence here is the coyote, and there is nowhere a more resourceful animal. Western ranchers and the US government tried to eliminate them, so the opportunistic creatures simply moved east. Coyotes get along fine in urban areas, stealing pet-food and garbage from back yards. They prefer those for which the food was intended, and given a chance, will snatch unwary pets.

Kenneth Clark, late eminent historian, would look on all this as Natura naturens – nature being nature, and advise us to enjoy living with such a rich diversity all around. Oh, and don’t let Fido out from 6-8 in the morning.

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