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Zoo York

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by Worldchanging NYC local blogger, Mark Caserta:

It was an interesting week in New York City! First, a pack of hungry rats took over a fast food restaurant in Greenwich Village, scaring the bejesus out of locals and millions of television viewers alike. Then, a beaver was spotted swimming in the Bronx River. It was the first beaver sighted in the city in 200 years. (The same cannot be said for rats in local restaurants.)

The beaver seems to be just one of a long string of unusual animal sightings in New York (not counting the guy who had the tiger and alligator in his apartment). Let's not forget the coyotes that now regularly visit the city, and the explosive growth of hawks and falcons. There have even been sightings of wild turkeys in the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park.

So, what's happening? Well, it's likely a mix of good news and bad news. The bad news is that development pressures in the suburbs (and the city, in the case of the rat) are forcing wildlife to find new habitats. Some have found city life to their liking, confusing urban dwellers and local animal life alike.

The good news, if there is some to be found, is that these wildlife sightings are a sign that New York City is greener and cleaner than ever. No one would have imagined a beaver swimming in (and surviving) the Bronx River ten years ago. It's an indication that the river is coming back strong. A similar comeback is happening in Brooklyn's heavily polluted Gowanus Canal, where oysters are now being grown!

In addition, the fact that wild animals are invading our parks is a sign that the greenery is to their liking, good news as well for urban park lovers who have endured years of fenced-off amenities during park restorations.

So, what can be done about the overdevelopment that's driving these wild critters into the city? Unfortunately, suburban developments are unlikely to shrink back, revealing new wild land, although Governor Spitzer's Smart Growth initiatives may help to slow the trend. Until then, New York will continue to get a little bit wilder.

I feel a little bad that all of these beautiful animals are leaving suburban areas and coming to the city. We owe the suburbs something...I've got it: we'll send them some rats.

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