Anthropomania

Concrete Jungle

Episode Summary

Urban wildlife - that's everything from pigeons to coyotes to possums to deer, depending where you live - can be found in every nook and cranny of our cities, but just how well do we know our neighbours? Join Niki, Jay and Erika as they explore the world just outside your window with the scientists that know urban wildlife best. Are coyotes the Batman of our cities? Do raccoons have street smarts? Are there mutant mosquitoes living in our underground tunnels? It’s a concrete jungle out there, and it’s wilder than you think.

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Episode Transcription

Anthropomania  Episode 106, Concrete Jungle

Chris Schell: 

I had seen urban coyotes because I grew up in Los Angeles and I had seen them on LA streets a lot, but I didn't fully understand how different they were until I got to graduate school and one of my co-faculty advisors told me a story about a coyote in Chicago, walking into a Quiznos in downtown. And I said, wait, hold up, a Chicago Quiznos coyote. I got to see this. All right, good. Let's see coyotes on the street all the time in LA, but inside of a Quiznos establishment? Nah, nah, that doesn't happen. You know? Sure enough. That's exactly what happened.

Jay Ingram: 

Hi, welcome to Anthropomania. We're seeing a lot of wildlife in cities these days. And today we're talking about urban wildlife 

Niki WIlson: 

And not just the urban wildlife of today, but the urban wildlife of the future. 

Jay Ingram: 

So at the top of the podcast, we heard scientist, Dr. Chris Schell talking about coyotes. And while there was a thought of calling this episode “Coyote Ugly”. Uh, actually, no, wait, wait. I watched the trailer and no, we're not doing hard, no. 

Erika Siren: 

Taking that bullet for us, Jay. 

Niki WIlson:

Yeah. Sorry. You put yourself through that. 

Jay Ingram: 

It was tough actually. Now back to Chris Schell, he pronounced it “kai-OAT-EE” What about you guys? How do you pronounce the name of that animal and why?

Niki WIlson: I pronounce it as “KAI-oat”. And that's because I grew up with my dad saying “KAI-oat” and I've always, actually kind of thought maybe that was wrong. Cause we live in a more rural setting, but I'm going to keep saying it because that's, those are my roots man.

Erika Siren: 

And I'm firmly in the “kai-OAT-EE” camp. And I think part of that is influenced by the cartoon “Wile E. Coyote”

Niki WIlson: 

My dad did cheer for the coyote, always in those cartoons. I should tell you, Erika 

Erika Siren: 

or the “kai-OAT”, you mean 

Niki WIlson: 

Or the “kai-OAT”

Jay Ingram: 

So I'm going to go, I'm going to go all nerdy on you guys and say that, you know what the word originated in the language spoken as far back in Central America, by the Aztecs, the language called Nahuatl and the word in Nahuatl, and I'm going on the internet for this pronunciation is, you gotta listen carefully ““Coyotl”. So what's actually weird about this is that my mother pronounced it, and we were living in Winnipeg where I never saw a coyote. She pronounced it “COY-oat”. So I think she was channeling Nahuatl, not really sure why

Erika Siren: 

She may have been, but you know, the pronunciation of  “KAI-oat” or “kai-oat-EE”, it's a regional thing. You know, someone actually did a survey on this in the United States, and it turns out that the three syllable kai-oat-EE”,  is more popular on the Coasts and in the South and Southwest. But once you get to the Plains, then you get that two syllable “KAI-oat”. So maybe that pronunciation crawled up towards you, Nikki.

Niki WIlson: 

Yeah, I'm sort of right on the cusp of those ecosystems. So, but we're talking a lot about, uh, coyotes here and, uh, those are not the only urban wildlife. So sure, you might see a coyote once in a while in your city or your town, but the few minutes you see them is really just a snapshot in time for the other 23 hours and 55 minutes that coyote has a whole life and in the city, they are part of a thriving, pulsating urban underworld that many people are just not even aware of, which is why today. I'm going to take you on a tour of a city that I've created based on the research. 

Imagine that as you lay your head to sleep, the bats roosting on the tree behind your apartment are just waking up to feed on the night insects. As they flitter across the city landscape, they experience the cool air coming off urban ponds, or, you know, your residential lawns. They're also blasted by the heat still coming off the sun-soaked  pavement from the day. They fly by a street lamp where a spider's hanging in its web. That spider’s a bit bigger than the same species in the country because it's a city spider. And you know, that spider might be someone's breakfast tomorrow when a crow alights on that street lamp cause it's, you know, circle of life. As the bats fly over a coulee or a valley in the city, they might see a white tail deer and foxes might weave in and out of the trees of city parks while they hunt for cottontails. Entire dramas are unfolding here. Predators are eviscerating their prey on school fields. Raccoons are scrapping with domestic cats and, you know, quietly over in some corner, an ant colony has slowly evolved to tolerate those high city heats of that urban tarmac and they are thriving. This stuff is going on all over the world in cities. I don't know. Have you guys had any encounters? 

Erika Siren: 

I don't actually have an encounter that quite matches that magical world you put forward. My encounter was actually on the dirty streets of the downtown Vancouver bar district but, but that's the thing is that wildlife is still there. It was in my youth when I was in my twenties, it was early in the morning. The bars had closed. Everyone was on the street. And in the corner of my eye, I saw this coyote just amongst a huge group of people, kind of scrounging around for some leftover pizza that someone dropped. And the thing that really resonated with me at those early hours in the morning was just how close it was to so many humans and more importantly, how it really wasn't bothered by it whatsoever. 

Niki WIlson: 

Yeah. They don't care much. Right. They've got like no f’s to give about people. and when they're really used to them, 

Erika Siren: 

they're like, where's my pizza? give it up!

Niki WIlson: 

Yeah, exactly. 

Jay Ingram: 

What about you, Niki? You must have such experiences in Jasper. 

Niki WIlson: 

I've had several of those experiences. As you can imagine, living in a town that's sort of surrounded by national park. So we live in these condos right along this creek and last summer,  my neighbor, Sally left her back door open and a pine marten ran in and went up on her kitchen counters and then it crapped on the bananas cause you know, they like to defecate on the highest point they can. And just imagine like it's got this really cute face, like they're kind of these long, skinny, um, animals about the size of a loaf of bread. Which is ironic because it actually took a loaf of bread from her countertop and ratted out the back door and where she found it.

It tried to pull it through the fence and the bread was too fat. So the loaf of bread was just like jammed in the fence

Erika Siren: 

 Oh no

Niki WIlson: 

No, I mean, I'm laughing. I didn't have to clean crap off an ass. Sorry. 

Jay Ingram: 

No, exactly. But you know, these stories are typical, right? We're hearing a lot more of them perhaps because of the pandemic, but, uh, one of the questions that we want to address here and now is, is this something that's increasing? Like if we go back 40 or 50 years, did people see many fewer raccoons, coyotes, pigeons, maybe even owls in the city. And you know, I, I did a search and it's really hard to find. And I think one of the reasons is scientists have only started  seriously looking at urban wildlife in the last, let’s say 30 years and so it's very difficult to know, uh, whether what we're seeing. Is actually a trend. Although I think as we go on today, we're going to discover that yeah, it is that this is a real thing. It's a scientific thing and it's growing. 

Erika Siren: 

We're living in a pandemic right now, and that has kind of intensified our interest in urban wildlife. Birding for example, has exploded over the past year. One app that people use to record birds, it reported an increase of 102% over the past year and 8,500 unique recordings of bird sightings on Easter weekend alone. That's a lot guys.

Niki WIlson: 

I think people are becoming a lot more aware of what's right outside their door and today we'll be talking about what people see a lot in North America, but we are aware that there are Anthropomania listeners around the world, we see you Australia, and we want to hear from you about your urban wildlife experiences. Like did you see a kangaroo in the mall on boxing day? Cause if you did, you need to tell us, Oh, I'll see you on the Twitters Aussies!

Erika Siren: 

Looking at the wildlife in our cities. There may be a lot of different types of species in cities, but not all species is well-equipped to live in these urban environments. It takes a certain amount of toughness to live in the mean streets of a city. It takes a certain type of animal. And one of the best examples of an animal that's adapted really well to an urban environment is the coyote.

Niki WIlson: 

Do you mean “kai-OAT”? 

Erika Siren: 

I mean, I mean,

Jay Ingram: 

She means “COY-oat”

Erika Siren: 

But truly, you know, these, these are generalists that have really adapted so well to an urban environment and urban coyotes well, that is Chris Schell’s specialty 

Chris Schell: 

My name is Dr. Christopher J. Schelll. Most people just call me Chris. I'm an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley. One thing, you know, coyotes are super, super flexible and their ability to survive in an array of environments is what makes them so adaptable to cities. But whether or not that change was already built in them, say dealing with, I don't know, wolves and mountain lions and bears in non-urban environments, you kind of already got to be pretty flexible, but many of my colleagues have seen that there are genetic changes.

Jay Ingram: 

This genetic change that Chris is talking about is a little bit tricky, right? Because if you want to know that animals are actually evolving uniquely in urban settings, as opposed to rural settings, there gotta be genetic changes that underlie that, but you can still have random genetic changes that aren't really being forced by the urban environment. They're just random genetic changes that would have happened to them anyway. So that's a little bit of evidence that maybe evolution is happening, but it's not yet convincing

Niki WIlson: 

One the ways they figure out if it's just random is they compare the same species that lives in the city and also lives in the country. And this is what happened in some research on this yellow flowered plant called Hawksbeard. Hawksbeard  has moved into cities in places like Montpellier in France. And what they're finding is it's sort of eking out an existence in these tiny little patches of soil, you know, sometimes near trees. In the wild, It has two strategies for disseminating its seeds. So it, it will either drop heavy ones that land nearby and create more plants close by, or it will send big fluffy, white ones out on the wind to colonize, you know, further afield. And what they're finding the city when compared to the country plants, is that plants in the city have started to drop more heavy seeds because there's no point in producing a fluffy seed that's just going to blow away and land on the concrete. So it's not just coyotes. We're seeing this flexibility and a lot of other species like plants. 

Erika Siren: 

And it's so cool how you can see such significant changes in cities. And we spoke a bit earlier about how the pandemic is really forcing us to go outside and see the wildlife right outside our door  but that view it's not the same for everyone. Even within the same city. Where we find our urban wildlife,  diverse urban wildlife, can tell us not only about our cities, but ourselves

Chris Schell: 

The way in which we treat urban wildlife is sort of a reflection of how we treat each other. And I'll give you the example of thinking about walking on a singular street inside of the city. Pick any city. It doesn't really matter. I'm from LA. So let's take Sunset Boulevard, right? If you're walking down Sunset, depending on where you are on sunset, you will see more concrete relative to say further down in the more expensive areas. Greater tree canopy cover, greater vegetation cover. You may also notice something like, oh, snap. It's, it's a little cooler in this area that has greater vegetation. That affects where you start to see positive relationships between wealth, so socioeconomic wealth, and tree cover, has a name, it's called the luxury effect. So society, through a bunch of processes generates these inequalities and who has the access to green space and where that green space is located.

Niki WIlson:

That just makes me feel sad because we know green spaces are so important to human health, and you can imagine that paying to water and doing all these things it takes to maintain many urban plants. It's just out of reach for a lot of communities. 

Jay Ingram: 

There's also pretty good evidence that as you penetrate into the city from the suburbs, you get more and more concrete. You get a smaller and smaller variety of species. What he's saying is exactly true, call it the luxury effect, but that's the way most cities are actually built. 

Erika Siren: 

Regardless, coyotes can really survive anywhere. They can survive in concrete areas. They can survive in green spaces and because we're seeing them so often, we're also seeing a lot more human coyote conflict and one of the biggest issues in urban environments is that these city coyotes are becoming more aggressive and they're becoming more tolerant to humans too. And that scares some people, but you know, what do we do? Do we kick them out of our cities? No, it's not that easy because coyotes love ‘em or hate ‘em,  they actually provide a major service to urban ecosystems.

Chris Schell: 

The public discourse about whether or not these animals are becoming more aggressive or they're dominating say these urban landscapes in a way that is threatening to people in some instances is sort of misleading because there are certain individuals that you can count on, you know, your two hands, but they create so much buzz because if there's one bite on one person, the entire city is on alert.

Good example: right now, as we're recording this podcast, there is a coyote in the East Bay that has bitten five people in under three months. So that one individual will probably get into the psyche of the entire town. And everybody will start to think. Coyotes are super dangerous when in reality, that one individual may be one of 200, 300 animals.

So the other individual animals in that population, they're going about their business, avoiding people, watching them, but really not wanting to be around them at all. It's those few examples that we latch on to. So are they becoming more habituated? Sure. They're becoming more habituated, more tolerant of people and that's for a whole host of reasons, things like feeding wildlife, PSA, right, Daily PSA for y'all: don't feed wildlife. Don't feed wildlife. It may be a new species interactions. So we know that there are a propensity of outdoor cats, all throughout California and many other states. 

Second PSA, keep your cat in doors for a whole bunch of reasons. The biggest being cats threaten a lot of biodiversity for rodents, birds and the like, so coyotes provide a service by taking out those cats but a lot of people don't like that. So the way in which we perceive the animals generates more of this big, bad wolf effect, right. We think of them to be dangerous in these systems. And yet they are perhaps the heroes, maybe that some folks don't want, but the ones that we need, right. There's a Batman drop right there for you. So we need them. They are our ecosystem sentinels. 

Erika Siren: 

Ugh, that Batman quote is so good. And it's actually a really good comparison to. Batman, he was too aloof, too abrasive to be a hero, but he was the silent protector of Gotham and coyotes are very much the same in urban environments. You know, they're generalists, they'll eat anything. And because of that, they're actually very, very effective pest control systems for our urban environments. It's not just feral cats. Coyotes can take care of voles. Coyotes can take care of invasive Eastern Cottontails. Coyotes can take care of anything. And that's why they're so important for the management of our urban ecosystems.

Niki WIlson: 

And I guess if we want coyotes to play that role, then we might have to think about how we adapt our own behavior, because there are some dangerous interactions with coyotes that have pretty serious consequences, you know, that sometimes involve small children for example, and it's not just the biting, coyotes carry disease. There's this really interesting long-term study that's been going on here in Edmonton, Alberta, and it's a long-term urban coyote study. And what they found is that there's a very high prevalence of a parasite called Echinococcosis in the Edmonton coyote population. It's way higher than the natural population, it's well, over 50%. And it's a tapeworm that humans are susceptible to. So imagine someone takes their dog to the dog park and a coyote has been in there the night before, and it's kind of pooped all over the lawn and the dog goes for a roll in it. You know, dogs love to roll in smelly stuff. Later that night, that person's, you know, Watching Netflix eating popcorn and petting their dog at the same time in go the Echinococcosis eggs, you know, it's rare so far, but 17 people in Alberta actually have contracted this disease and it can be fatal.

Erika Siren: 

Wow. I didn't know that

Jay Ingram: 

They perform ecosystem services, but as Niki has just said, They can pose a risk too. So it's complicated. 

Erika Siren: 

You have to ask the question, you know, what does the future hold for coyotes? Could we envision a very different coyote population a hundred years from now? 

Chris Schell: 

That's a really good question. I don't know if I see coyotes evolving, say maybe specializations in different parts of the country. But it's certainly possible. 

Erika Siren: 

There's actually people out there that are trying to cross-breed coyotes with dogs to create a new, very temperamental type of animal called a coydog essentially, they're trying to domesticate them, but is that really a good idea?

Chris Schell: 

So, whether or not coyotes are going to become domesticated is going to depend in large part on human beings perceptions of the animals and whether or not those animals ever have a function in society beyond those ecosystem services we talked about earlier. So dogs and wolves, they're a really good example of kind of the exception to the rule because you could have a lot of habituation should be noted, right? Raccoons are pretty habituated. Certain species of birds are pretty habituated, but we wouldn't necessarily say that they are domesticated. There would need to be some very intentional selection of specific behavioral, phenotypes, and controlled breeding of certain populations for it to qualify as domestication. But is it possible? I mean, y'all remember a year ago everybody was watching “Tiger King”. Yeah. It's possible. Like people do some crazy stuff. It's possible. 

Niki WIlson: 

It's not a good idea to domesticate a coyote and it is not a good idea to habituate them either. 

Erika Siren: 

What's the difference  between habituation and domestication?

Niki WIlson: 

Well, domestication, as he said, is something that has to be kind of planned and controlled and it takes place over a really long time. But habituation is wild animals who are still very wild, figuring out how to live around people because it benefits them, somehow. For example, before we had fenced school fields in Jasper, so I'm talking about when I grew up on the mean streets of Jasper, um, elk, elk would go, I mean, to town onto the school fields, both for the rut and to drop their calves and that kind of thing. And they're especially dangerous during those times. And it benefited them to work it out to be around people because it gave them refuge from the wolves who are a little more wary of people and don't want to come into town.

So there was little Niki, you know, running to school, dodging  the rut. And you know, it was not uncommon for a parent to say, if it gets bad, look for a parked car and just roll underneath it. 

Jay Ingram: 

Even in the heart of cities, there are all kinds of animals that are still wild. Like you wouldn't pet them, you don't breed them, but they're so common that we sometimes forget. So, you know, there's rats, there's mice, there's all kinds of plants. But the one that everybody is familiar with is the city pigeon. You know, you know, they used to be a rural species, the rock dove, but they've adapted the cities because cities provide buildings that they can roost on. Cities provide tons of food, often garbage, but often, you know, people that shuffle off to the park and scatter seeds on the ground and the pigeons feed on them.

So that, that is a perfect example of an urban wildlife species. And it's one that we've all seen. Now, the question is, could coyotes or other animals that at the moment aren't nearly as well adapted to the city. Could they become, in the future as common as pigeons. I don't know. 

Erika Siren:

Yeah. That's  a good question, you mentioned garbage to Jay and we cannot talk about urban wildlife and garbage without talking about our neighborhood trash panda, the raccoon they're everywhere, especially in a city like Toronto, there's over a hundred thousand raccoons in the city that is enough to fill Madison square garden five times over.

I have a story about a raccoon, but mine has to do with me carrying a bag of groceries home. I put the groceries down for a second and before I knew it, this little mask wearing tiny handed raccoon had plucked a bag of Doritos outside of my bag, scampered away, like only 50 feet opens up the bag with those tiny leather gloved hands and just starts shoving them into his mouth, maintaining eye contact with me the entire time. It was intense.

Niki WIlson: 

Orange dust flying all over his mouth, 

Erika Siren:

just a big f you.

Jay Ingram: 

It's very interesting to see how they adapt. Like I have, um, a place in the woods North of Toronto, but 150 kilometers North and up until two years ago, and I'd have, I've had it for like 20 years. I'd only seen raccoons once deep in the forest, a mother with three babies. Never ever saw them around the cottage itself. Now, if you have a barbecue, you can guarantee that within an hour after you've shut it down, the raccoons will be on the deck. So I, this used to irritate me cause they stole the bird seed I put in the feeder too. So one day I took a broom. This is I'm doing what Chris Schell says you actually shouldn't do. I opened the sliding door raccoons. Like they don't even care. Right. They just turn around, turn their big fat bodies around and start waddling off to the edge of the deck so they can go down the, the post to the ground. And so I crept up behind when I just gave him a little, I think it was a little tap on the butt. And instead of accelerating to get away from me, raccoon turned around, snarled at me, and just look me in the eye and I thought, oh, okay, you're becoming an urban raccoon. And I don’t like that. 

Niki WIlson:

He was like blink,  Ingram, blink

Erika Siren:

Yeah try me.

Jay Ingram: 

 But do you know, raccoons are cool, right? Because as urban wildlife, they adapt us as well, maybe even better than coyotes. And one of the key questions is, is that sort of, uh, an array of behaviors that they already had. They're really flexible, really adaptable. That enables them to work in the city or because they've been in cities for so long now, are they starting to change genetically, you know, our old friend, Suzanne McDonald  has been studying the behavior of urban raccoons. She's a psychologist and biologist at York University and she noted how city raccoons do not cross the big thoroughfares in Toronto, the main streets. Now, maybe they've learned to do that. But maybe they're evolving to be a different kind of raccoon. So she set out to gather some hard data on city raccoons versus their country cousins. She can't quite conclude too much yet because she needs more animals to study. But what she's seen so far is pretty tantalizing. 

Suzanne MacDonald: 

Well, this is a really long drawn out study, which I did not expect to be lasting as long as it has, but it was originally started because I noticed by putting GPS colors on urban raccoons, that they'd never crossed major roads in the city of Toronto, which was really interesting to me because if they do cross major roads, they actually get hit by cars and then they don't reproduce.

So it struck me that maybe raccoons are learning not to cross major roads. And they're having smart maybes that learn not to cross major roads. And isn't that interesting because that suggests that there's cognitive evolution going on, that these raccoons and the city are getting smarter. So I have these bitey little raccoons that grow up together in a, in the same environment, but have not, had experienced foraging and have not had experience going out in urban areas with their mothers or rural areas with their mothers, urban animals, they're much more persistent and they try and more strategies.

So they, they give it a go. And if one way doesn't work, they try another way. Whereas the rural animals, they would give it a go and then it didn't work and then they would just leave. And that I think, um, that was pretty striking that the urban ones would work at these, um, problems for hours. One of the animals that I observed, she, uh, worked on it for six hours before she got in.

You never see that in a rural animal. Again, they have different energy requirements are at the edge of starvation in rural areas often. And so they need to move on. They can't just invest that much time. There's a difference in this. Tendency to approach new objects, which we call neophilia if you like new objects and neophobia, if you don't like new objects.

And so it looks to me like the urban ones are neophilic and the rural ones are neophobic, which makes sense. If you live in the country don't approach new things, cause they might kill you. Those kinds of traits are the ones that could be selected for, um, through evolution. 

Jay Ingram: 

Suzanne got the go-ahead from friends to set up a big garbage bin in their backyard with food inside, But the lid secured by a bungee cord, she then turned on a wildlife camera and waited. 

Suzanne MacDonald: 

I would leave it at night and then come back the next day. And they called and they said, oh, well, I don't think anybody came last night because the garbage can is intact. And I said, oh, well, I'll come and pick it up. So I went and then I looked inside and the, the food, which is cat food was gone.

I was like, well, this is interesting. So we looked at the camera, the video footage and that female, she tried and tried and tried to get in. And eventually she opened up the garbage can, just the lid just a little bit. And she slid her giant body in the garbage can got the food and then got out again and left. It's completely standing like it never been touched. It was awesome. 

Jay Ingram: 

Persistence persistence. You slide your giant body in a little crack between the lid and the top of the can

Niki WIlson: 

Yeah like, is there some point at which they're so fat, they just can't operate anymore

Erika Siren: 

Aww, and they get stuck and their little butts are  just hanging out of the garbage can

Niki WIlson: 

They're just stuck in the garbage can 

Jay Ingram: 

And we all feel sorry for them. So the question, at least from the scientific point of view, is this difference in behavior that Suzanne is seeing? Is it just the experience of urban raccoons? They know they can be more persistent because they're safer? Or are they actually evolving? And until she can look at a lot more baby raccoons, both from rural and urban areas, she can't be sure yet, but it sure is interesting. 

Erika Siren: 

It’s not just big things like raccoons, coyotes, birds that are changing in response to urban environments and the garbage that is plentiful there. There's tiny things too, that are also changing in cities. For example, something like a tiny mosquito. 

Marc Johnson: 

My name is Marc Johnson. I'm an associate professor of Biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga and the Director of the Centre for Urban Environments. So the Culex pipiens is, uh, the common name is the Northern house mosquito, and this is a very common mosquito that occurs in a number of places throughout the world.

Very common in Europe, very common in North America, for example, known to carry some diseases that are relevant to humans. But what's interesting about it is that typically this mosquito lives above ground and will, and will breed and small little pawns or small little pools. And it needs a blood meal in order to produce eggs, which it'll often get from humans, or they may get it from a mammal or some other organism.

Well, what they've discovered is that during World War II, when people in London, England, During bomb raids  they'd have to go underground to be safe. And so they would often congregate into these underground tunnels and they were getting ravaged by mosquitoes and it was this Northern House mosquito and people followed up and discovered that this is the Northern House mosquito, but it's a completely novel form that they named a, a new variety, “Culex pipiens molestus” because it was attacking people so vigorously in these underground environments. And with further examination, what they discovered was that this organism is living underground. And while it will take a blood meal, it doesn't require a blood meal in order to produce eggs and it exclusively lives in these underground habitats.

Maybe it sometimes feeds on rats, but it doesn't have to. And that it has become through time genetically diverged from the above ground form into this novel below ground form. And they've now rediscovered that the species also occurs in underground habitats in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and a number of other places.

Jay Ingram: 

So if we have that example of the mosquito that has become two different kinds of mosquito, what are we going to see in the future? We're going to see a set of wildlife in the city that really is composed of different species, like urban species that don't even exist right now. 

Marc Johnson: 

In a hundred years, that's unlikely to expect that we'll have many completely novel species, very unlikely, but there may be some that don't recognize those rural forms as their own species. That example of the mosquito, that underground form, when you put it in a cage with the above ground form, doesn't recognize it as its own species. It won't mate with it. Will that type of thing happen in more organisms, it might. Will more organisms evolve to be adapted to living in urban environments almost certainly. And we already see that happening.

Niki WIlson: 

Yeah. And almost certainly potentially because by 2050, over two thirds of the human population on earth will live in cities. Some people say that's a conservative estimate, so cities are going to grow. And with that growth more opportunities for urban wildlife. 

Erika Siren: 

That is almost influencing the way that we design our future cities. It's going to become more and more important to accommodate not only the people living in them, but the animals living in these cities as well. Chris Schell told me that in cities, ecosystem integrity allows for greater biodiversity and that allows for greater environmental health for everyone. 

Niki WIlson: 

And, you know, maybe part of the considerations for that design is not just making it easy for generalists, like coyotes and pigeons, but also building in features that allow the greatest amount of biodiversity. So for animals that have a harder time, potentially we give them some habitat to really increase the diversity that's there.

Jay Ingram: 

Another trend is that invasive non-native species do better in cities than in the countryside. That makes sense. As you move toward the centre  from the suburbs, you get more and more of them, non-native species. At the same time, you've got a more unnatural environment, paved surfaces, heat island, different soils, human population density. And because we're talking about invasive species. They can go everywhere. So this is not just a one city, one country trend. That's a global trend and native species, which aren't as adaptable, are going to be relegated to that part of nature that remains outside those cities.

Niki WIlson: 

This is where it might be up to people who live in cities and, you know, bigger towns and everywhere, quite frankly, should try and fight the good fight to keep a lot of native species around, you know, where there are places where they're planting entire boulevards with good plants for pollinators or people that are leaving their lawns behind for, you know, more diverse landscapes that promote better habitat for different birds and insects. So I think it's important. We're all on board to try and fight that from happening, Jay

Jay Ingram: 

Yeah. And you know, those fights can start really small. A golf course. Let's change it from a golf course to a habitat. I mean, that's one way you could do it, but people are going to have to understand or come to believe that exposure to nature is a really great thing to have.

I mean, I don't know what you guys think, but I think the next few decades, two or three, maybe four decades are going to be really crucial to try and interrupt some of those trends that I mentioned. What do you think? 

Niki WIlson: 

Yeah, absolutely. It feels like things are kind of changing exponentially. 

Erika Siren: 

Brisbane, Australia is a great example. It's kind of served as a pilot city where they're designing the city in a way that is more friendly to wildlife. That's all it takes. Every marathon starts with a first step. And Brisbane is an example of that first step. So maybe what we see in the next hundred years in Brisbane, we'll build up some more momentum that will extend to the rest of the world. 

Jay Ingram: 

We could see really great situations in the future. But I bet there'll be a lot of species in urban centers that we don't actually have right now, that they will have arisen because of the urbanization of the world. Anyway, 

Niki WIlson: 

it sounds like your next book, Jay, is it going to be science fiction? Is that what you’re doing?

Erika Siren: 

Dystopian futures with Jay Ingram 

Jay Ingram: 

you know, the, the next step here is that we're going to ask our listeners to, uh, tweet us with their version of how they say “KAI-oat”, “coy-OAT”  or “kai-oat-EE”. So everybody, 

Niki WIlson: 

Hey, team “KAI-oat”  I'm waiting 

Jay Ingram:

interesting. We'll see. Maybe we can even, uh, if people would tweet us, say how they pronounce it and tell us where they live roughly, Right. Um, we will get to get our, uh, version of our own survey that, uh, had mentioned earlier. 

Niki WIlson: 

Well, that's it for Anthropomania today. Always fun digging around in the dirt with you Jay and you Erika. 

Jay Ingram:

Yeah, it's been a lot of fun. 

Erika Siren: 

Always nice to speculate wildly with you guys

Jay Ingram: 

Speaking of dirt, I'm still disappointed We didn't call it “Coyote Ugly”

Erika Siren: 

You need to let that go, Jay

Jay Ingram: 

Also big, thanks to today's guests. Chris Schell, Suzanne MacDonald, Marc Johnson and a shout out to Colleen Cassidy St. Clair at the University of Alberta studies, uh, urban coyotes. And she was a great resource for us. If you like today's episode. Please follow us on your favorite podcast app so you don't miss anything. We appreciate it. If you'd leave us a positive review, there's also a listener survey in our show notes, and we adore your feedback. 

Niki WIlson: 

The Anthropomania conversation continues over on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. So join us and tag us with your coyote, pronunciation, or coyote or whatever you want to do. And your memorable urban wildlife encounters

Jay Ingram: 

Australia Don't let us down. You can also find the entire episode on YouTube search Anthropomania to find it. And for even more Anthropomania content, we've got your covered over on our blog anthropomania.com. There you can sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Find a ton of other great content, including articles from the Anthropomania team. Now the Anthropomaniacs, all of us are going to be taking a short break to recharge and put together more episodes before we launch season two, but we guarantee we'll be back with the same great content. 

Niki WIlson: 

So from all of us here at Anthropomania be well, and please let the wildlife speak for itself.

I'm Niki Wilson. 

Erika Siren: 

I'm Erika Siren 

Jay Ingram:

And I’m Jay Ingram, bye for now.