Seattle’s more than 400 parks, 130,000 trees and almost 86 miles of shoreline mean the city is an abundant host for wildlife–and not only the usual raccoons and squirrels. Seattle has much, much more to offer in the way of urban wildlife than most cities.
It’s possible to spot transient deer lurking in greenbelts in the city along with coyote packs. Birds are plentiful too, with peregrine falcons flying overhead as well as crows, pigeons, starlings and over 80 other bird species.
Urban wildlife also abounds throughout the Puget Sound corridor in and around city and county parks.
The variety of birds in Washington are vast. Birds help keep a natural balance in their environments and snack on insects along with seeds and nuts. Washington state has over 516 species of birds from waterfowl to crows, swifts and hummingbirds. Each species comes with their own unique set of features and needs. Some birds like crows can recognize individual people and at least in Seattle, hundreds and hundreds nest together at night in a nature preserve near the University of Washington. Seward Park is home to nesting eagles and other raptors, such as falcons and hawks as well as many other species of birds including owls and hummingbirds. Great blue herons are also frequently spotted in and around this Seattle Park treasure. The Seward Park Audubon Center has information and programs for your young birders.
Raccoons are the ultimate urban wildlife. They roam around yards and alleyways and like us are omnivores. Eating both plants and animals helps them adapt to their urban environment. They usually hunt at night and rest during the day in rock piles, hollow trees, crawl spaces or under decks. Kits (baby raccoons) stay with their mother in one place for 8 weeks before leaving their den. Then they remain in the same territory as their Mom for 13 months or so before growing more independent and venturing out further. Raccoons tend to avoid humans but should they get too close, make yourself appear bigger while shouting and waving your arms.
Coyotes have become more and more common as civilization creeps in. The dog-like animals are both hunters and scavengers who eat any small animal (cats beware!) they can capture along with grass, fruits and berries. Coyotes are pack animals who raise their young for many years. They are wary animals with a remarkable sense of smell. Sightings are most likely to happen just after sunset and before sunrise, though you can sometimes see them during the day. They live in dens under uprooted trees, logs, caves or even a storm drain. They may have one or several dens.
The Western Gray Squirrel is a threatened species in Washington due to human intervention and competition from the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Squirrels of all types can be found almost anywhere there are trees. They like to build stick and leaf nests for their homes while others enjoy tree cavities for dens. Squirrels are most active at sunrise and sunset but also enjoy daytime hours. They tend to eat tree nuts and seeds. Squirrels will also scold humans with their high-pitched calls.
Though unpleasant, rats are everywhere in the urban environment. Washington is home to many types of rat such as the Norway rat and the black rat. Black rats are also commonly called roof rats due to their climbing ability. Rats will eat almost anything humans do along with garbage and animal droppings. They usually forage after dark and will hoard food in hidden areas. Rats tend to live in groups and will travel approximately 50 to 300 feet from their nests for food. Rats have a high water need and tend to congregate where water is plentiful. Rats breed year-round.
Depending on who you talk to, Beavers can either be a menace or amazing creatures. They are the largest living rodents in North America with adults averaging 40 lbs and more than 3 feet in length. They are well known for their broad, flat tails. Beavers live along rivers and in small lakes, marshes and streams. They prefer deep, calm water along with ample building material for dams. They eat the leaves, inner back and twigs of aspen, alder, birch, cottonwood, willow and other deciduous trees along with shrubs, ferns and grasses. Beavers mate for life and breed between January and March. Their kits will remain with them for two years or more.
Bats are a very beneficial animal for people and hunt down annoying insects such a mosquitoes. They play a very important role in keeping the natural balance in your neighborhood. Bats feed at night and use highly developed radar system known as “echolocation to find their food. More than 15 species of bats live in Washington and hibernate over the colder months. Most bats breed during late fall or winter in the same place as their hibernation. Bats enjoy living in bat homes made by people or caves and hollow trees.
By Rebecca Mongrain