May 24 2009

City Critters

Published by at 7:10 am under Insects, Fish, Frogs,Mammals

American Toad (photo by Chuck Tague)Since I live in the City of Pittsburgh I believe I live far from Nature and have to leave town to see it.  Meanwhile, my city neighborhood has quietly gone wild. 

I shouldn't be surprised at this.  Fifty years ago Pittsburgh was very smoky and housed 680,000 people inside the city boundaries (which end at Ross, Wilkinsburg, Dormont and Crafton).  Today it is not visibly smoky and the city population is about 300,000. 

There's lots of room for wildlife as I am finding out.  The critters have been especially noticable this month ... "in your face" if you ask me.

It started with the squirrels who've become very bold and more numerous as the month progressed.  The extra squirrels are newbies who were probably led to my feeders by their mother.  Now they lounge, play and fight in my backyard - and periodically try to break the bird feeder.

We have raccoons.  They live across the street and come out at night to dig up my garden and wash their hands in the bird bath.  I am really annoyed at the damage they've done to my front garden and I fear they may be eating eggs and baby birds as they did at Marcy Cunkelman's a few days ago.  My neighbor suggested red pepper as a way to discourage their digging.  Marcy suggests removing the raccoon.  She's going to trap hers because he's systematically eating every baby bird in her yard.  Grrrr!

If I had a vegetable garden I'd be angry with the rabbits and groundhogs too.  Yesterday a rabbit strolled into my backyard and ate all the dandelion leaves.  This is good!   The groundhogs have stayed across the street because I have nothing interesting for them to eat.

And the most surprising find ... a toad on my neighbor's steps at dawn on May 1.  I have never heard frogs or toads singing in the city so it's a wonder that this one showed up.  Maybe the day will come when I hear spring peepers at home.  Now that would be amazing!

(photo of an American Toad by Chuck Tague)

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “City Critters”

  1. Nancy Ton 24 May 2009 at 9:21 am

    Please tell your neighbor to think twice about trapping the raccoon. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has a law that any raccoon that is trapped and turned over to authorities (city animal care and control, etc) has to be euthanized. No exceptions. (There are other animals on this list – they all have in common that they CAN carry rabies). Many of the raccoons that are trapped around the city are not sick, just happy to be your neighbor.

    For helpful hints on how to get rid of raccoons in unwanted places, the Humane Society has some very helpful resources. Here is the link:

    There is a downloadable pdf, too.


  2. gloriaon 24 May 2009 at 9:52 am

    I too have a resident Groundhog living in my Dormont backyard, I have been in the same house for 20+ years and have never before had a groundhog reside here…or maybe I just wasn’t aware they were in residence? I knew of the rabbits as they are usually forging around in the early morning hours, but a groundhog? Don’t know what, if anything, I should do about him or her. Any suggestions?

  3. faith Cornellon 24 May 2009 at 11:01 am

    Grrr is right. We have the mother & babysquirrels even up on our deck. We have feeders that are in cages, however, they sit under them & wait for the stray ones to fall. Nuisances. And they seem bolder than last year. Our racoons stay over in the garbage bins walled off section. The sqirrels look in the glass door at us & we are on the 2nd floor so they skitter up the railings. We are the only ones with bird feeders. Too bad they can’t read; we could put up who can & who cannot feed here.
    Your descriptions are easy to see in my minds eye. Enjoy the moments. Faith C.

  4. John Englishon 24 May 2009 at 1:33 pm

    The city parks also harbor a wealth of wildlife. I live a few blocks from Frick Park and have seen deer, turkey and blackbears!!! emerge from there. Had a blackbear over in Sharpsburg a few years ago too. We humans are systematically destroying wildlife habitat. They need somewhere to live and they adapt to us easier than we adapt to them.

  5. sharonon 24 May 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Ms St John, first I have to tell you that because of you, I have discovered that I absolutely love watching birds. I’m over near Arsenal Park and I’m always amazed at what I see. I irritate the people at work because I’m always looking out the window hoping to see the Gulf tower peregrines. (I work in the USX tower) or peeking at the webcam and saying “Look at this” every 15 minutes (LOL)

    Anyway, I just wanted to put my 2 cents worth in about the irritation of city critters. I have a small vegetable patch and I just figure on planting extra for the rabbits. We have very bold squirrels also (love watching them walk the telephone wire highway) but have learned to just make alterations.

    I say this because I am just so amazed that the city has cleaned itself up enough that the wildlife is slowly moving back in. Seeing herons on the North Side’s riverfront, red tail hawks in Arsenal Park, rabbits right on Penn Ave … it never ceases to amaze and please me.

    You are so right in that it is right “Outside My Window”

  6. Anne Curtison 25 May 2009 at 10:54 pm

    We live near CMU, and have a typical Pgh. city lot (120 ft long that elevates 30 ft in that distance!) We think we have a groundhog-in-residence, based on a large hole behind our brick and railroad-tie terrace and dirt scrapings, although we haven’t seen it yet. In our yard, we have rabbits, which may explain lack of dandelions, and have seen wild turkeys, and last summer a doe, with a fawn who still wanted to nurse. I don’t know how they got there, since there is a 7-ft fence between our property and the next open space. Perhaps the neighbor’s ancient fruit trees enticed them? This summer a goldfinch family has taken up residence. The goldenrods we didn’t pull out and the lilac we planted must be attractive to them. Our only concern is the feral cats and the harm they do. Good luck with Budgie! Anne

  7. Steve Von 26 May 2009 at 9:48 am

    I live in Oakland between Carlow and Trees Hall. I have seen 3 dead garter snakes, this is no doubt due to the numerous feral cats on our street. I’ve only seen one live one though. But as a recent transplant, I was surprised at the amount of snakes in the city.
    There is also a flock (?) of turkeys that frequent Carlow and the surrounding area. They look like a bunch of hens so far.

  8. Pattyon 26 May 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Hi, Kate, and all. I heard peepers this spring in the Nine Mile Run hollow. I live in Regent Square and Frick Park is across the street from my house. Nine Mile Run is just below. This is the first year I’ve heard them. A neighbor recently saw a Great Blue Heron down there. I also have a ground hog tenant, and we all have to bungee-cord the lids on our trash cans to make sure the raccoons don’t go “dumpster diving.” One winter night, around midnight, my sister saw 4 deer walking down one of our brick streets, casual as can be.

  9. Anne Curtison 22 Jul 2009 at 12:07 am

    I couldn’t decide where to send this, since there are delicious choices! “Urban wildlife” seems to fit under Mammals. You decide!

    This morning, as we walked Liffey-the-dog toward CMU, on Forbes between Beeler and Margaret Morrison, we saw a woman peering anxiously into the conifers beyond the fence. As we got closer, we saw she was watching a still-dotted fawn, a big one, skittering back and forth. She and I had language difficulties, I’m sorry to say, although her English was far better than mine could have been in hers. She was worried, she said, because it was lost from the “bigger one”, probably Mom, who was up near Techview Terrace. My guess is that they went to graze and something scared Mom, who left Baby to hide until it was safe.

    As we continued, we saw a man watching too. He said he worked for CMU. He opened the fences. We walked on, and as we came back the same way saw nothing. If anyone can fill in the missing pieces, I’d like to know what became of “Baby” if anyone knows.


  10. Kate St. Johnon 22 Jul 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Very cool, Anne. I saw a 6-point buck with his antlers covered in velvet in Schenley Park near the Golf Course on June 29th. Your observation indicates they’re not just visiting Schenley Park, they’re probably breeding there.

  11. Anne Curtison 27 Jul 2009 at 1:00 am

    We volunteer at The First Tee of Pittsburgh at the golf course in Schenley, so I mentioned your buck to Eric Thoma, the Director of Education there. He concurred, saying he routinely saw 3 deer at the top of the Serpentine Drive. He said he hadn’t seen any w/ antlers, but would look and tell me. Anne

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