From birds on a train to goats on a bus – adaptable animals are learning how to get around our expanding cities.
Many are domestic – like cats – but coyotes, monkeys and other wild species are also finding their way onto public transportation.
These animal “commuters” are motivated more by food and security than anything else, said Suzanne MacDonald, a psychologist and biologist at York University in Toronto, Canada, who studies urban wildlife.
“If they’re sitting there thinking, “I gotta catch that 3 o’clock bus in order to make it to the movies,” then we’re in deep doo-doo,” quipped MacDonald, who receives funding from the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration.
Instead, animals that end up on buses or trains usually realize “if they get on this thing and get off this thing, in between they [can be] treated pretty well and rewarded for it.”
Indeed, urban-wildlife ecologist Seth Magle noted that many animals drawn to public transportation are likely getting fed by people, which should be avoided.
“It seems cute, but it’s an opportunity where people can come into conflict with animals,” said Magle, who directs the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute.
Magle’s program works to tell urbanites that they’re part of a living ecosystem, and that wildlife are still figuring out how to co-exist with them….
“Our cities are not sterile – we built them for humans, but other species are going to find use of them,” he said.