Tangled turf: Humans, critters collide over space

"Coyotes, fishers, red fox and even deer, to a lesser degree, which were once absent from suburbia have become not common, but not rare," said Karl Parker, senior wildlife biologist with the state DEC Region 4 Bureau of Wildlife.

Region 4 covers Albany, Columbia, Greene, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Delaware, Otsego, Schenectady and Schoharie counties.

Throughout Region 4 and the state, the trend over the last decade has been to cut wildlife a break, and set aside small areas of lands slated for development. The key to the strategy has been to plan these areas so that they connect with neighboring wildlife spaces, said Parker.

But it doesn't always happen. Even if it does, many people don't like the thought of nature taking its course as packs of coyotes track deer and other mammals through these green highways in people's backyards.

In some instances, these wildlife refuges get overrun with higher-breeding mammals. Animals like squirrels breed and thrive in alarming numbers in suburban areas. The same can happen with deer. Those populations are out of reach of natural predators and licensed hunters.

Any attempt to exit these "refugias," as Parker calls them, usually results in direct confrontation with humans. Birds fly into windows, deer jump in front of cars and competition drives some animals into people's backyards and sometimes their homes, said Stone.

"The real threat is not the wildlife. The real threat is us. We import exotic bushes, bring in invasive (plant) species and change the habitat," said Stone.

We make the ideal habitat for these animals, he said. The problem will get worse before it gets better.

If you build wildlife habitat, wildlife will come, said Parker. They are not just green areas to look at. The problem with people, he said, is that they think they understand nature.

"They have this image of Disney (World), that when you set land aside, everyone will live happily ever after," he said.

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