Offbeat Adventure

These 10 Cities Have Unexpected Animal Residents

Everybody knows that as human cities grow, animal populations decrease. It's just common sense. After all, when suburbs start sprawling into previously undeveloped land, the wildlife that once called the wilderness home will have to flee — or else. At least, you'd think that. As it turns out, wildlife doesn't always scatter in the face of humanity. Sometimes, it infiltrates and adapts to a whole new way of life, right under our noses. Here are the unexpected animal populations you'll find in 10 cities around the globe.

Related: How Cities Shape Animal Evolution

Berlin's Got Boars

In October of 2012, three people and one police officer were injured when a 276-pound (120-kilogram) boar attacked them in their Berlin neighborhood of Charlottenburg. The attack was an unusual occurrence, but the idea of a giant boar wandering the city streets was not. In fact, the hefty swine frequently turn carefully manicured lawns into wet mudholes overnight as they root around for food. But despite their size, it's nearly impossible to track down the boars as they go about their daily business. They're just too wily.

Pythons in Miami

Unlike the native German pigs, these serpentine Floridians are immigrants. The problem is, people buy Burmese pythons not realizing that while they might be only a foot (30 centimeters) long in infancy, they'll easily grow to eight or even 12 times that length in no time. With its warm weather, abundant water, and plentiful prey, Miami and other parts of Florida are the perfect environments for the snakes to thrive.

The L.A. Mountain Lion

Griffith Park is one of the great monuments of Los Angeles, and not just because it's the site of the Hollywood sign. There's a world-famous observatory and some of the best urban hiking around in the park as well. It's also home to P-22, a mountain lion who has majorly changed his habits in order to fit in with city life. He's hemmed in by highways and must stick to a much, much smaller territory than he normally would out in the wilderness. He's found a huge following, however, including more than 5,000 fans on Facebook.

Windy City Coyotes

Truth be told, coyotes have found their way into almost every major American city — including one spotted on the roof of a bar in Queens. But in Chicago, they've found a particular niche that suits them perfectly: cemeteries. The great green expanses of Graceland Cemetery, Acacia Park Cemetery, and others are just too good for a mid-size predator to pass up. But don't worry, says the Urban Coyote Research Project. Despite the 4,000-odd coyotes living in Chicagoland, there has never been a documented coyote attack in northeastern Illinois.

Little Falcons in the Big Apple

Peregrine falcons are unmatched when it comes to speed, plummeting toward their prey at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). But they weren't fast enough to escape the endangered species list in the 1990s. Fortunately, they're making a comeback thanks to their growing habit of nesting in cities. In 2008, the New York Times reported that NYC had become home to one of the largest urban populations of the birds in the world — the tall buildings to roost in and bountiful pigeons to feast on make cities a natural fit.

Foxy London

Take an early morning or late night walk through the city streets of London, and you just might encounter a wandering vixen. Or you might not — despite the fact that roughly 10,000 foxes call England's capital city home, they're also notoriously stealthy. The vulpine invasion began shortly after World War II when suburbs began spreading into the countryside. By the 1970s, London's fox population was firmly established.

Roman Wolves

Actually, wolves lurking outside of urban areas has become an issue all across Italy, but in Rome, it's something special. After all, legend has it that the city was founded by two brothers who were raised by a wolf. In 2017, a hidden camera captured footage of two juvenile wolves just outside of the capital, the first of the species seen in the area for more than a century. Researchers believe the younger animals are accompanied by their parents, and they've already got a nickname for the male of the pair: Romulus, obviously.

Nara, the City of Deer

Many of the city-dwelling animals on this list can be quite hard to spot, as they've adapted to their surroundings thanks to their shy and stealthy nature. Not so for the many deer of Nara, Japan. Shika deer have lived abundantly in the city for nearly 1,300 years, thanks to a legend of the lightning god Takemikazuchi riding one into the city. Today, they are one of the city's main tourist attractions (but you should never forget that they're still wild animals).

Leopards in Mumbai

In one of the most jaw-dropping sequences of the documentary "Planet Earth II," cameraman Gordan Buchanan captured a thriving population of predatory leopards living right under the noses of their human neighbors. There are as many as 41 of the big cats stalking the underbrush of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and others that make their homes in back alleys of the city itself. They can be dangerous — no kidding! — but they also help keep rabies in check by preying on the city's many feral dogs.

Harar Hyenas

Hyenas don't generally live in Harar City in Ethiopia, but they make their way into town en masse nearly every night. They come in search of scraps of meat, which people gladly give them. It's a practice that started with a man named Yusuf Mume Salleh, who began feeding and caring for the animals a generation ago. Today, his son Abbas Yusuf carries on the tradition. Speaking with Reuters, the younger Yusuf described how feeding hyenas works out best for everybody. "Hyenas have never attacked the people of Harar after my father started feeding them, unless you harm their babies."

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Monkeys, chickens, and building-eating snails have also made their way into human settlements. Learn more in Tristan Donovan's "Feral Cities." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas September 26, 2018

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