The New Frontier of Urban Wildlife

A look at the challenges of co-habitating with urban wildlife as more of the wild becomes confined to the city limits.


| September 2013



Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Lyanda Lynn Haupt has created and directed educational programs for Seattle Audubon, worked in raptor rehabilitation in Vermont, and is a seabird researcher for the Fish and Wildlife Service in the remote tropical Pacific. She is the author of Crow Planet, Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent, and Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds (winner of the 2002 Washington State Book Award). Her writing has appeared in Image, Open Spaces, Wild Earth, Conservation Biology Journal, Birdwatcher's Digest, and the Prairie Naturalist. She is also the winner of the 2010 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award.

Photo by Tom Furtwangler

In The Urban Bestiary (Little, Brown and Company, 2013) acclaimed nature writer Lyanda Lynn Haupt journeys into the heart of the everyday wild, where humans live in closer proximity with nature than ever before. In this excerpt, Haupt calls for a greater understanding of the urban wildlife that surrounds our city homes, and how their natural habitats affect ours.

Urban Wildlife

It sounds like an urban myth, but it isn’t. One day a lost coyote wandered into downtown Seattle. It was promptly discovered by a group of crows, who hate coyotes for their habit of preying on crow fledglings. The crows began to chase and dive-bomb the coyote, who, increasingly confused and disoriented, attempted to escape his tormentors by scampering, no one quite knows how, through the front doors of the Federal Building. From there, things got even worse for the young coyote, who had never been indoors and, horribly frightened, began running blindly about, slamming his thin, gangly body into the glass walls until he spotted the refuge of an open elevator and quickly slipped in. The doors closed, and the coyote was caught inside. Not knowing what to do, the building officials rang the police and the local wildlife officers, but help was delayed because no one would believe that there really was a coyote stuck in the downtown Federal Building elevator. Nearly three hours later, state fish and wildlife officers managed to trap the coyote — who was found to be a healthy male, probably just eight months old — and then relocated him unharmed to a suburban forested area.

Of course, no one was able to see the coyote inside the elevator. At first, I imagined him relieved. No people, no crows, a chance to draw a breath. But it is much more likely that his terror only increased in a cramped space with no exit, no glimpse of sky or earth.