"Wild Kingdom"
An article by JoAnn Simmons in the March 2001 issue of Washingtonian

Explored by Emily Dunn, April 20, 2001

It is very easy to lose track of animals in the very developed District of Columbia. Aside from the squirrel, which performs acts of begging in front of the tourist to gain even a morsel of food, I personally have not noticed much wildlife in the city. According to JoAnn Simmons, animals are being found increasingly more abundant in urban areas. The reason we don’t see them much, says Simmons, is that keeping a low profile is the key to survival. If we don’t see them, how do we know they are really there?

There's wildlife even in town.

When DC grew, the paved streets and wall-to-wall buildings forced animals needing open spaces out into more rural areas. Other animals such as raccoon and deer were squeezed into wooded areas surrounded by traffic and human activities. Without their predators and adding new laws to protect them, these animals began to rebound. If once these animals kept low profiles, it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain so. In Spring of 1999, beavers knocked down two Cherry Blossom trees in the peak of their season, gaining more attention than the trees themselves. Two black bears have been hit on the road. Deer have been sighted across from the British Embassy, and the list goes on. The author seems to view these happenings as normal incidents. Simmons says that the arrival of animals in the city shows the "unchanging order of nature…cycles we can neither alter or dominate."

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel as though a raccoon rummaging through my garbage is natural or healthy. At the end of the article there is a blurb that warns not to touch any animals you come across because they may be rabid, even the backyard raccoons. In my inner-city neighborhood there are dozens of children running around, having rabid animals is so dangerous! Also, animals become dependent on humans for their livelihood. Whether it’s the squirrel wanting a piece of bread from a picnic lunch or a muskrat taking shelter underneath a house (which has been sighted), they begin to depend on humans. And what happens if humans begin moving out? Vehicles are the greatest predator of these city animals and the sight of them squished in the road is not a pleasant one.

Not that I am blaming the animals for invading my space. I know full well that it was the people’s fault for pushing them out, and pushing so far that they are forced to return. But I do not share the optimism and awe of wonder that the author has. However, I can find no suitable solution to the problem, at least not in the near future. What’s done is done and the best we can do now is learn how to cope.

Submitted to and posted by Anthony Benoit
April 26, 2001

Top | Back | Explorations | ENV 1100