How much do you know about urban wildlife?

urban fox
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Even in the most dense urban landscapes, our wild neighbors are all around us. Sometimes we forget they're wild creatures, skillfully adapting to a strange, manmade habitat. See how well you know your furry and feathered next-door neighbors!

Question 1 of 16

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Crows in urban areas have learned to use cross walks for what purpose?

In Japan, walnut-loving carrion crows have figured out how to utilize cars stopped at intersections to crack open nuts for them. They wait alongside people at crosswalks and when the light changes to red, they place a walnut in front of a stopped car and get out of the way. When the light turns green, the car drives over the nut and crack it open. And when the light changes to red again, the crows waltz back out and collect their snacks. Now that is a brilliant use of urban traffic!

Question 2 of 16

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raccoon eating food
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Urban raccoons wash their food, just like their rural counterparts.

Neither wild nor urban raccoons wash their food. That's a myth about raccoon behavior. Raccoons don't really wash their food, but they do sometimes use water to make their paw pads more sensitive so they can gather more information, through their sense of touch, about what they're about to eat. Raccoons roll food around with their paws to learn more about it, and will do this with or without water around, though the movement looks like they're washing their meal.

Question 3 of 16

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coyote in trees
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The number one prey for urban coyotes is:

The diet of urban coyotes is often misunderstood. They aren't after your garbage, and they aren't after your pets. Rather, coyotes maintain a fairly similar diet to what they have in rural areas. In a study for the Cook County Illinois Coyote Project, Paul Morey found that an urban coyote's diet is made up of small rodents (42 percent), fruit (23 percent), deer (22 percent) and rabbits (18 percent). In other words, they're wonderful for pest control in urban and suburban areas. Domestic cats only made up about 1 percent of the diet, compared to grass which made up 6 percent.

Question 4 of 16

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backyard garden
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If you're not a fan of critters, a simple solution for keeping wildlife out of your yard is to:

If you want to make wildlife like skunks, coyotes, raccoons and rabbits rare visitors to your yard, the easiest thing to do is keep it tidy and free of any food sources. Harvest ripe fruits and veggies, clean up any underbrush, keep a lid on trash and compost bins, and clean up any birdseed if you keep a feeder. If you really want to dissuade nighttime visitors, set up a motion-sensor sprinkler system that turns on when critters come sneaking around and stays on for 15-30 seconds.

Question 5 of 16

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urban rats
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Rats are an often unwanted but inarguably well-adapted urban species. Part of their success is their sheer number, since rats can reproduce all year long. With ideal conditions, how many babies can a single female rat birth in one year?

An adult female rat can have up to 12 babies per litter, and as many as a litter a month! That means as many as 144 babies every year. Consider that her female offspring are ready to reproduce at just 2 months of age, and it's not hard to see how a city can quickly be overcome with rats!

Question 6 of 16

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What is an opossum's defense mechanism?

Opossums are famous for playing dead. When they feel extreme fear, they go into an involuntary comatose-like state, which basically makes them no fun to kill; predators will often leave the poor possum alone. The possum is somehow able to sense when danger is gone, and it comes out of its faint. But this isn't the only defense mechanism possums employ. They also work their jaw to produce a fair amount of disgusting drool, fooling predators into thinking the possum is diseased; gape their mouths open in a threatening way; and can emit an unfortunate-smelling body fluid from their rear end that no one wants to come into contact with. In other words, opossums have mastered several gross party tricks that keep them alive.

Question 7 of 16

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city map
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Which urban animal has such such an impressive sense of direction that it has been used in long-distance races and as a spy?

Pigeons are shockingly skilled at finding their way home. In testing the species' sense of direction, pigeons have been blindfolded, put in a magnetized box with an independent air source, and flown vast distances from home — and can still find their way back. Scientists are continually studying how they do it. Their sense of direction has been utilized for entertainment through long-distance pigeon racing as well as for more practical uses during World War I, when American and Allied service members strapped cameras to pigeons to take aerial photography and deliver messages.

Question 8 of 16

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Which urban animal eats 600-1,000 mosquitoes and other insects an hour while hunting?

Bats are an enormous help for pest control, even in urban settings. The big brown bat, for example, is a common species found in urban areas. They like to roost in churches, the trees of parks, in sports stadiums and other structures, so established cities that have large trees lining the streets make an excellent habitat. Make these bats feel welcome because they are one of the only major predators of night-flying insects, and they have voracious appetites.

Question 9 of 16

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urban squirrel
Raccoons, possums, finches, crows and gray squirrels are all species of wildlife that fall under which category of urban wildlife:

Urban wildlife can be filtered into four categories. Human obligates aren't exactly wildlife; they tend to be domesticated animals like dogs and cats that rely on human presence. Human associates and exploiters are animals that can adjust to areas where humans live, eating anything from food found in gardens to garbage scraps. Species like rats and birds fall into this category. Human adapters are species that take advantage of the resources provided by humans but they don’t necessarily live among humans in urban environments, though some still manage to. Deer, coyotes and hawks are great examples. Human avoiders are species that want nothing to do with humans but sometimes can't avoid it when we break up their habitat and territory. They are usually sighted when navigating through urban areas to get to other wild spaces. Mountain lions are a perfect example of human avoiders.

Question 10 of 16

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urban pigeon
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Which urban bird species was introduced to some cities by federal and state wildlife agencies as a way to control pigeons?

Pigeons are an incredibly successful species, figuring out how to adapt to even the densest of cities. And there is another species that they have helped bring back from near-extinction. Starting in the 1970s, federal and state wildlife agencies released peregrine falcons in urban areas to try and help peregrines find a foothold after their numbers were radically reduced by DDT poisoning — and as an added bonus, they feasted on the overly abundant pigeons. Peregrines love the smorgasbord of pigeons (as well as starlings, squirrels and other pesky urban wildlife), and they also love the perches and nesting locations provided by skyscrapers, which are similar to the cliffs they prefer in wild spaces. The urban environment has become an excellent habitat for this raptor species.

Question 11 of 16

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baby animal paws
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The babies of which species are called kits?

The babies of quite a few species are called kits, two of which are foxes and skunks. Baby coyotes, however, are called pups.

Question 12 of 16

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urban raccoon
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Racoons will eat just about anything, but what is one food item they won't touch?

Anyone who isn't a fan of raw onions can commiserate with raccoons. In the 1980s, biologist John Hadidian spent four years tracking a couple dozen radio-collared raccoons in Washington, D.C. He found that raccoons are not picky eaters by any stretch of the imagination, but they do draw the line at raw onions.

Question 13 of 16

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urban animal face
Which urban animal is a marsupial?

The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found on the continent north of Mexico. Females have a short gestation period of only 12-13 days, and will give birth to anywhere from four to 25 babies that are about the size of a honey bee. The young climb to the mother's pouch where they attach themselves to a nipple (a female usually only carries an average of eight young in her pouch) and stay there for about 50-70 days. They then emerge from the pouch and are fully weaned at about 93-105 days old.

Question 14 of 16

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squirrel funny face
Wildlife ably adjust to life with a strong human influence, but species aren’t immune to negative impacts. What is still a threat to urban wildlife?

Species that have adapted to life in the urban jungle are amazing, but they don't have super powers. They're still affected by everything that affects other wild animals, and that includes everything from invasive species to pollution.

Question 15 of 16

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skunk in log
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Skunks may be smelly, but why do you want this urban predator to frequent your yard?

Skunks might have a stinky reputation, but if you have one frequenting your yard, you should consider yourself lucky. Skunks have hefty appetites, and they eat everything from mice, moles and rats, to aphids, grubs and caterpillars. This means they can be truly excellent for pest control. Just don't let your dog or cat think that it's a new friend come to visit.

Question 16 of 16

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fox tracks
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The scientific name for this common urban animal is Vulpes vulpes.

The red fox, or Vulpes vulpes, is the largest of the fox species. It's cunning — as well as a varied diet — has helped it to become an amazingly successful urban wildlife species.