Winter is lingering over here in Massachusetts, and even though this past Saturday was grey, grim and wet, this did not deter a few of us to go out and track the wildlife of our very urban neighborhood. And what did we catch? No less than coyotes, foxes and more…

I went out just a mere fifteen minutes away from my home in Somerville and joined a naturalist walk paired with a tracking learning session in a local small reservation and organized by the Friends of Alewife Reservation (FAR). Of all places, the Alewife Reservation is located right next to a busy highway, our famous Route 2. Still, you would not suspect that there, hidden in the middle of giants reeds, lies a little trail –called the North trail– a little piece of wildlife used by local coyotes, foxes, deer, rabbits. How do I know that? We got to see their tracks and scats! (which we remind you was the whole point of the walk).

What else did we see? Well as the avid birder that I am, I never get out without being distracted by the chatters of birds, the flickering of their wings. I could hear blue jays and I was happy to see house finches, a female cardinal, a couple of downy woodpeckers, few crows mobbing a red-tail hawk, and your usual common crows and house sparrows.

David Brown, our naturalist and tracking expert, has been leading those tours for the FAR organization for a while now. As well as he has conducted a few of the recent wildlife surveys of the area, and reported at earlier times the presence of beavers, otters, minks and so much more.

It is great to know that these little city gems can host so much wildlife, and help connect different wildlife spots. And after this little few hours escape on the wild side, I promised myself to acquire David’s great Trackards for North American Mammals. These field cards show you how to discover those wild secrets that are hiding in plain sights and are fun to share with your friends and kids.

Do you see the paw?

Now the sad part: these little wild treasures are getting neglected by the public and maybe even by the Department of Conservation and Recreation itself. This one certainly is. Thankfully non-profits like FAR have been working hard and continuously for more than a decade to raise attention, educate and advocate about the necessity of protecting these places. Still, general apathy and reckless urban development seem to take over these days –even prevail.

These wildlife spots are critical to protection for so many reasons. To highlight a few: They are the greatest tool to help connect with Nature here in our backyard, learn how to appreciate, and teach our kids the importance of our ecosystems. You don’t protect what you don’t understand and love. And if we can’t protect and appreciate what’s at our doorstep, then there is no way we’ll succeed protecting at larger scales. But besides this, these spots act as natural regulators: these swamps, heavy bushes, wild patches absorb humidity and control flooding. They act as wildlife corridors and help preserve biodiversity locally and globally–biodiversity that we are losing at a great pace, to the detriment of the species and ours included.

This little walk on the wild side aside from giving me the excitement of knowing that coyotes and foxes are around (for our benefits), surely reminded me as well that little splashes of wildlife right in the middle of our cities are here for us and not the other way around. They deserve our attention and our respect. They need our protection.

ClaireMarch 27th 2017 | by Claire O’Neill 

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