Living with Wild Animals and Birds in the United States

Being a human being in the twenty-first century means you sometimes have to share your space with plants and animals. Especially if you live on the east coast of the United States.


| March 2015



Wild Plants and Animals

It’s very likely that more people live in closer proximity with a larger amount of wild animals and birds in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history.


Photo by Fotolia/Bill

In the nineteenth century, an incredible turnaround took place that helped to reverse the endangerment that some animal species were facing after hundreds of years of settler activity in America. Nature Wars(Broadway Books, 2013), by Jim Sterba, focuses in on how urban sprawl affected conservationists’ efforts to preserve life. This excerpt, which discusses how humans in North America are living in closer proximity to more wild animals than ever before, is from the Introduction.

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Nature Wars.

Living with Wild Animals and Birds in the United States

The world is full of dire environmental reports. Many species of flora and fauna are threatened, more than 600 birds and animals are listed by the Federal government as endangered, and everywhere you look their habitat is being carved up or paved over by man. Ominous threats loom, climate change being the latest and, perhaps, greatest. One study after another forecast the extinction of more and more mammals, amphibians and invertebrates as the human population growth soars above seven billion.

Yet what is striking is how many wild species, large and small, have come back – from near-extinction in some cases. They aren’t all back, of course, but many animal and bird populations have only been nursed back to health but have adjusted unexpectedly to life among people. This has happened nationwide, but it is especially true in the eastern third of the country, where the majority of Americans live. Along the east coast, for example, a densely-populated urban corridor stretches 700 miles from Portland, Maine, to Norfolk, Virginia. That corridor contains one city after another, with overlapping suburbs, and exurbs, splotches of rural sprawl, and growing populations of wild creatures.

It is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals and birds in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history. This region’s combination of wild animals, birds, and people is unique in time and place, the result of a vast but largely unnoticed re-growth of forests, the return of wildlife to the land, and the movement of people deeper into the exurban countryside.

People now share the landscape with millions of deer, geese, wild turkeys, coyotes and beavers, thousands of bears, moose, and raptors, formerly domesticated feral pigs and cats, and uncountable numbers of small wild animals and birds. And more are on the way, moving in among us as their populations thrive and spread to regions where they hadn’t been seen for centuries – in some cases far beyond their historic ranges.





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