© 2011 Joshua Stark
Matt Weiser has an interesting article about Sacramento's recent, apparent uptick in violent human/wild animal encounters the past two weeks. In particular, a couple of animals have been found with rabies (sad and scary, as anybody whose seen Old Yeller can tell you).
Coming from the country, I love how these stories are often told with surprise and awe about how these animals can live in such seemingly unnatural environs; namely, our cities.
First, I don't know how even humans live in these seemingly unnatural environs, but let's look past that, and consider the reality of our habitats and communities: Nothing in nature respects political boundaries because they don't really exist.
There is no such thing as a "city" in nature. Roads, rivers, bike trails, ditches, empty lots, power and sewer lines... the list of entryways into cities is long, and animals that have a high tolerance for humans and similar tastes find cities very inviting, indeed. Cities offer wonderful shelters from weather and feasts for omnivores, and there is little we can do about it. Conversely, traffic, agriculture, flood and fire control are a few examples of how the "urban" infiltrates and impacts those places we consider rural and wild, altering them completely.
Certain animals thrive under conditions that humans create. As Bill Tweed, former Chief of Interpretation at Sequoia National Park, once pointed out, scavenging omnivores love food-storing omnivores; and, what are we, if not the consummate food-storing omnivore? It would be very unnatural if other animals did not take advantage of our largesse.
For its part, Sacramento's wildlife may be wilder than most cities, which can, ironically, help bring down animal encounters. We are blessed with a Wild & Scenic river corridor running right through the city, providing habitat for pipevine swallowtail butterflies to mule deer. These wilder habitats offer more appropriate shelter and foods for those raccoons, skunks, opossums, and others who may be tempted to hit up houses and parking lots.
(If you are interested, you can read more of my posts on the illusions of rural, wild and urban here, here, and here).