Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Urban Wildlife Podcast on Hedgehogs, Raccoons, and Urbanite Biophilia

Posted 16 Jan 2017 / 0

My Spring semester is almost upon me, and that means a lot of mindless computer work getting my classes configured. I love these moments, because they give me the chance to catch up on my favorite podcasts. I hadn’t checked out the Urban Wildlife Podcast in too long, and was excited to find that Tony and Billy have been very prolific at late.

The first episode that I listened to was called “You Deserve Hedgehogs“:

This episode has a great interview with Joan Blaustein about the dilemma of how to encourage urban dwellers to appreciate nature. I appreciated Blaustein’s assertion that simply putting nature preserves in a neighborhood does not assure that residents will appreciate that preserve: you also need to build appreciation for nature, particularly among urban kids. I was reminded of a very long time ago in my teaching career when I was taking urban kids for an overnight camping trip at Floyd Bennett Field. Although it is a beautiful natural area, Floyd Bennett Field is far from wild. You can still hear cars on the Belt Parkway as you walk the grounds! But my students — or at least those with no rural experience — were so distrustful of nature… even this highly domesticated nature. Urban Wildlife Podcast is a great resource in this regard, as it provides a lot of examples of how we can engage with nature within city limits. Oh, and this episode talked about urban hedgehogs in London and monk parakeets in Greenpoint Cemetary, two pretty cool urban creatures.

The second episode that I listened to was “Raccoons (not really Nazis) and Raccoon Dogs“. It was a long episode, but that makes sense given how broadly successful raccoons have been as a synanthropic organism:

There was a lot of great content here. Just the fact that raccoons have been able to be so successful in so many of the human environments into which they have been released is fascinating. Susanne MacDonald’s behavioral experiments with rural and urban raccoons paint an intriguing picture of how urban environments can create novel selective pressures that evolve cognitive abilities. But perhaps the most interesting was how raccoon behavior initially constrained their spread in Germany. The female raccoons are apparently highly philopatric, which means that reproductively the population can’t expand very quickly. Males who instinctually disperse away from their natal territory find plenty of open habitat but no females to mate with. Is this a case of evolutionary mismatch in raccoons? Apparently so, because as a result of female philopatry it took a long time for raccoon populations to expand then finally explode in Germany. Once the raccoons got the whole dispersal thing down, they went right to work eating German garbage and creeping into German attics.

A Minor Post, Behavior, Behavioral Ecology, Cognitive Ability, Commensalism, Conservation Biology, Radio & Podcasts, Urban Ecology

Leave a Reply