Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wild Suburbia Project

Bobcat captured on remote camera at Westmoreland Sanctuary
Over the past few decades, our suburbia has been getting wilder. Bobcats, coyotes, fishers, foxes, and black bears all call Westchester and Fairfield home.

However, not much is known about exactly where they live (e.g. Are there bobcats in Rye? Coyotes in Yonkers?) or when they first appeared. The Westmoreland Sanctuary, Teatown Lake Reservation and the Mianus River Gorge have joined forces in the Wild Suburbia Project to address these two questions. And they are turning to local residents to find some answers. Project coordinators are enlisting citizen scientists to provide information about where and when these animals have been seen.

“We’re eager to get a better picture of where these species are being observed in Westchester and Fairfield,” said Project co-coordinator and Westmoreland Sanctuary naturalist Adam Zorn. “After collecting bobcat sightings from around Westchester County for the last 8 years, we’re looking forward to developing a more thorough understanding of where they are carving out a living in this suburban landscape. And except for the coyote, these species were found historically in our area. They were originally driven out by human activities. The ones coming back have learned to live with us. That is fascinating.”

Zorn, along with Chris Nagy and Mark Weckel of the Mianus River Gorge will be hosting a series of workshops to launch the Wild Suburbia Project ( 7pm on April 4 at Teatown Lake Reservation, April 18 at Westmoreland Sanctuary, April 25 at Greenburgh Nature Center, and May 2 at Rye Nature Center). “We are inviting the public to attend these events, learn about these new critters, ask us questions, and find how to participate in our project. We need as many people as possible to get involved and tell us about their wildlife sightings for this study to work.”

Joining the project is very easy. Participants can easily register for the project by filling out an initial survey regarding the presence or absence of each of the species at their place of residence at www.wildsuburbiaproject.com (or in paper if they attend the workshop). Upon completion of the initial survey detailing any past sightings, participants will be able to report any new sightings of the five target species from any location in the NYC metropolitan area. “The Mianus River Gorge has used similar methods to map coyote and owl habitat, but never five species at once,” said Dr. Chris Nagy of the Mianus River Gorge. “We are very excited to be teaming up with Westmoreland on this project.”

Once residents begin to submit their residence surveys, sightings maps for each of the five target species will be displayed on the Project website. The website is also a wealth of information regarding proper identification of each species and natural history notes. More information on the Wild Suburbia Project and the animals being studied can be found at www.wildsuburbiaproject.com.

The Mianus River Gorge, located in Bedford, NY works to protect and promote appreciation of the natural heritage of the Mianus River watershed through land acquisition, conservation science, research, and education throughout the region.

Westmoreland Sanctuary is a non-profit nature center and 640-acre wildlife preserve located in the Towns of Bedford and North Castle, NY. Established in 1957, the Sanctuary works to promote nature appreciation, preservation, and conservation for the present and future benefit and enjoyment of the public.

Further information regarding this project can be found by contacting Adam Zorn, Naturalist - Westmoreland Sanctuary at (914)666-8448 or Chris Nagy, Staff Biologist - Mianus River Gorge at (914)234-3455. To reach the project authors for questions and general inquiries related to the Wild Suburbia Project, please send an email to wildsuburbiaproject@gmail.com.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

weren't coyotes - like wolves and mountain lions originally natives to this area? weren't they here up until the 1800's? or do you only mean in the last "few decades"?

Wild Suburbia Project said...

There is no historical evidence of coyotes in New York until after the extirpation of wolves and mountain lions in the 1800's. Coyotes made their way into NY some time in the early 1930's or 1940's from two populations that migrated west, one from Ohio and one from the northern Great Lakes. There is some more information about the "invasion" of coyotes on this blog at http://westmorelandsanctuary.blogspot.com/2010/09/westchester-county-coyotes.html as well as a good article similarly explaining the process in Scientific American at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coyotes-are-the-new-top-dogs

-Adam Zorn
Co-coordinator of the Wild Suburbia Project