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The City Has A Wild Side

A coyote eyes in prey (gophers) in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Jean-Guy Dallaire/Flickr)

A coyote eyes its prey (gophers) in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Jean-Guy Dallaire/Flickr)

Raccoons have long been a common city resident. But in the past few years we’ve seen turkeys in Brookline and coyotes in Cambridge. Even bears are known to have ventured into the suburbs.

The Bay State’s landscape, where forests run into suburban backyards, is a beloved feature. When Henry David Thoreau was writing “Walden,” the famous chronicle of his immersion in nature, he was so close to the town of Concord that he is rumored to have gone home often for cookies.

But that intersection of urban and wild often causes us to encounter animals we’re not used to — or comfortable with. We talk to two wildlife specialists about how we can best coexist with the wilder side of nature in our cities.


  • Greg Mertz, veterinarian, Odd Pet Vet practice, New England Wildlife Center in South Weymouth
  • Laura Hajduk, biologist, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
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  • Alexander MacLellan

    I have seen and heard coyotes for years now, when I was living in Concord you could hear them hunting at night. Their howl is one of the more bone chilling sounds you can come across in nature, it reminds me a lot of a child screaming. I have had many good experiences with coyotes, having run into them in the wild often. Once I bumped into a whole pack in the woods in winter, and last summer while I was racking a field on the tractor I saw one in the corner bathing in the sun, so I shut the engine off, got off the tractor and sat with it in the sun while it panted just like a dog. I must have been something like ten feet from it, and we sat together with it completely indifferent.

  • steve

    in England a fox walked into a suburban house and mauled a set of twins this month!!
    wild animals should be treated as such.

  • David Kennison

    Anyone interested in this topic should read the book “Beast In The Garden” which addresses the topic of habituation of wild animals to human habitats, and the potentially tragic consequences of such. Bottom line, people and wild animals do not mix, and should not be allowed to, especially for any reason of not wanting to be “mean” to them. Do not tolerate the presence of wild animals in your habitat; create negative consequences for them if they venture there. The idea of “happy cohabitation” is dangerous and uninformed.

  • Coleen Magrath

    Hi there,
    I live in Rockport and have been hearing all sorts of terrible stories about cats being carried off by coyotes in broad daylight, etc.
    How seriously should I take these stories and what should I do to protect my 2 small cockapoos on a walk or at the beach?
    I read the other comment about children being mauled. Should I be scared?


  • Bridget

    We have been seeing huge wild turkeys in Swampscott for a few months now. There used to be 4, then there were 3 and now we only see 1. Do people hunt and eat them or is this the circle of life via the coyotes?

  • Susan Hagner

    If people kept their cats inside and watched their dogs more carefully, our pets would not become food for wild animals. Cats are the number 1 predators for wild song birds…so, we could address 2 problems at once!!!

  • Mike Joyal

    I reside in RI, on a lot surrounded by conservation land. Last week, as I was leaving for work, I opened the door to come face to face with a coyote. We stared at each other for several seconds before he took off. Nearby was a freshly killed fawn.

    If you’re going to live where there’s a food source for a predator, you have to expect to see such things. Don’t make it easier for them by supplying them with cats and small dogs.

  • Chas Norton

    It would be good to follow up with the author(s) of the article in the Sunday Globe magazine about the carefully researched study in the Newport Rhode Island area about coyotes; their conclusion was that problems arise and persist when humans feed them consciously – or unconsciously when small pets are left outside.
    I think you skimmed over the topic and gave a good general picture, but need to cover this several times more and in greater depth as an ongoing thread.

  • kate

    Is it possible for yesterday’s interviewer (Meg?) to use another phrase other than the three-time “that is a
    GREAT question”

  • http://www.wbur.org Meghna Chakrabarti


    Just about every topic we choose deserves more time than we can give them in a radio program. But I do take your point; the Globe Magazine article was interesting. We did note on the show that not only are pets and pet food a prime draw for coyotes, but also the food that people leave out for feral cats. Coyotes are drawn to both the food and the gathering cats as well. Another case of good intentions, bad consequences.

    - Meghna

  • http://www.wbur.org Meghna Chakrabarti


    That’s a GREAT question!

    - Meghna

    PS: Hope you were able to hear more of the hour than just those small off-the-cuff interjections.

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Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

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