The Urban Animal Invasion

Environmental anthropology works to understand the complex relationship between nature and people. Even across American culture this relationship changes vastly. In areas like our national parks respect for nature is very important. In places like cities, where people dominate the area, the relationship changes to a more domineering one. This may be changing.

In cities around the world the number of animals roaming the streets is increasing rapidly. This means that the people who live in the cities are being forced to figure out how they are going to live with their newfound neighbors.

In Berlin there are wold boars.

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In New York City there are Coyotes.

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In Los Angelos there are mountain lions.

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These animals are moving out of the woods and into the cities for a multitude of reasons. One is that as urban development expands they do not have enough room to live separate from humans. Another reason is they, like humans, have realized that city life is easier. Food and water can be found with little effort. Also, due to recent conservation efforts the populations of large mammals has been increasing.

As we discussed in class during our environmental anthropology unit, humans have always had a complex relationship with nature. In some people’s viewpoints, like philosopher John Locke, humans and nature are against each other. Other people have the opinion that humans and nature can coexist hamoniously. These opposing ideas come into play when discussing what to do about the increasing amount of large carnivores in urban areas.

One side to the argument is that the animals are dangerous and should be eradicated. The people who are on this side of the argument are likely think according to like views of John Locke. They believe that nature and humans are unable to coexist and that humanity can conquer nature. People are worried for their small children and pets and believe that the large predators pose a threat to their safety. Another side to it is that research shows that eradication programs are costly, rarely work, and that while large animals seem scary their presence is actually beneficial to us.

An example is Coyotes. Coyotes eat deer that also may thrive in suburbia. More people are injured and killed by deer-auto collisions than are threatened by carnivores. Coyotes also dine on rodents, bugs, rabbits and geese, providing a benefit by reducing human exposure to diseases carried by those species.

So how will humans adjust to this change in their environment? Stan Gehrt, a wildlife biologist at Ohio State University who has been tracking animal populations in major cities for 12 years, says that “culling truly fearless animals is necessary for maintaining a harmonious urban life with coyotes” This is a life that he sees as inevitable. According to Gehrt, the question becomes, “to what degree are we going to tolerate the risk, and what kind of adjustments to our lives are we willing to make? Because we can’t get rid of them”.

Do you think humans are capable of working with nature to live harmoniously with their newfound neighbors or do you think we as a species will always choose to fight against nature?



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