When you tell people you are a wildlife rehabilitator in New York City, you often get a blank stare. People say, "What wildlife -- rats and pigeons?" In fact, there is a vast world of wildlife living among us that most people rarely see. Many aren’t even aware that these creatures exist in our urban environment. Nevertheless, the city’s parks host a plethora of wild animals, including foxes, coyotes, muskrats, turtles, raccoons, opossum, skunks, bats, rabbits, and countless birds.
At the right time of year whales and dolphins can be seen off the coast of Long Island, and harbor seals have been spotted off the shore or on land in every borough of New York City. The city ponds host a variety of frogs, toads, salamanders, fish, and turtles. Most people have heard of NYC's famous red-tailed hawk, Pale Male, but he is one of many raptors who call the city home: red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, ospreys, owls, and more. It’s not uncommon to spot a flock of feral monk parakeets with their distinctive bright green feathers. The city is teeming with beautiful birds--mute swans, ducks, herons, woodpeckers, turkeys, migratory songbirds--who go largely unnoticed.
NYC is a haven for many animals, and Central Park is a quintessential oasis of green amidst the steel and concrete. However, this is still a dangerous place for wildlife. Rat poison kills many small mammals, and can kill the raptors whose prey have ingested the poison. Cars hit small animals, and birds die from striking windows. Birds make nests in construction scaffolds, only to have their nests and babies destroyed when construction is complete. Animals are poisoned by lead and other toxins, and they can become tangled in string, wire, or other human debris. Well-meaning people "rescue" baby squirrels, fledgling birds, and nests of baby rabbits, when those animals weren't in need of rescue and should have been left to the care of their parents. Many pest control companies remove and destroy healthy baby raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and other innocent animals. We know that wildlife can thrive in a city environment, but it needs a little help and protection from us.
Wildlife benefits us in so many ways:
- Squirrels spread nuts and seeds that promote plant and tree growth.
- Animals provide fertilizer which promotes plant growth.
- Carnivores and raptors keep the population of rodents and other smaller animals under control.
- Bats pollinate plants and disperse seeds, and their appetites provide highly effective insect control.
- Opossums may kill up to 4000 ticks per week(!) due to their fastidious grooming, helping to keep Lyme disease down.
- Wildlife enriches our environment and allows us to experience the wonders of nature even in the most urban settings.
With wildlife offering us so much, and constantly adapting to our increasingly developed world, we at UUWR believe it is our duty to protect them. By providing quality care to the animals who need us, wildlife rehabilitators do a service both for the animals and the community. It is the vision of UUWR to create a city where wildlife thrives, where young people can experience the wonders of animal life right outside their city apartments, where humans can learn about wildlife and how to live safely and peacefully with their animal neighbors. Through hard work, education, and compassion, this is a dream UUWR and our supporters can one day achieve.
For more information on wildlife in New York City check out: