Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bobcats, and foxes, and bears! Oh my! The prevalence of predators in the suburbs


Image from Wild Suburbia

A few weeks ago, I spotted a red fox on the slope outside my kitchen window.  It was the first time I’d ever seen a red fox in Westchester, let alone one so close to my house.  We were all in the kitchen, so my whole family managed to see the fox before it went on its way.   

My reaction: YES!  Welcome predators!  Despite being villainized in many fairy tales and folktales, predators are essential to a healthy ecosystem.  Red foxes mainly eat rodents such as mice and chipmunks.  Over the years we’ve lived here, we’ve seen thousands of chipmunks, as well as mice, deer, woodchucks, rabbits, and turkeys.  We’ve had to close our windows during summer nights to keep out the smell of skunks.  Once we even saw a black bear walk across our deck.  Despite this abundance of wildlife, this red fox is the first “full-time” predator we’ve seen.  Given the high prevalence of Lyme disease in Westchester County, and the role rodents play in hosting and infecting the ticks that carry the Lyme-causing bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) , I am very happy to have spotted the red fox on my property.

Have any of you seen predators in your neighborhood?  The Wild Suburbia Project has a website where citizens can report sightings of bobcats, bears, coyotes, fishers and foxes.  There’s even a sightings map that shows you where these animals have been spotted recently.  I reported the fox (and the bear from years ago).  Be sure to add any animals you see to their list, and let us know here!


It’s good to remember never to put out food to attract wildlife, and to keep your eye on pets.

What are your thoughts on coexisting with wildlife in the suburbs?  

2 comments:

  1. I've been very excited to see red tail hawks on my property in Northern Westchester. I think that like the red foxes, they also are a predator for mice and chipmunks.

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    Replies
    1. Good point! I’d forgotten all about the role of birds as predators. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a really neat site, including a webcam of a red-tailed hawk nest: http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/16/Red-tailed_Hawks/

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