Meet the Neighbours: Tracking Wildlife in Our Backyards

Contrary to popular perception, urban spaces are teeming with critters - from raccoons to coyotes. Using both hi and low tech, scientists are now studying how they cohabitate with us. It appears that quite of few of them really are houseguests - of a permanent kind.

Raccoons: Do They Ever Leave?

Until now, scientists knew very little about how raccoons survive in a bustling city. Mark Dupuis Desormeaux and Suzanne MacDonald, two Canadian biologists, embarked on a groundbreaking study to track the precise movements of Toronto's raccoons.

They put radio collars on raccoons in three different locations spread across the city. The collars registered a GPS location every 5 - 15 minutes and mapped the raccoon's travels with great detail.  

The researchers wanted to know; where do raccoons go, where do they sleep and find water and how large are their territories.  The results were surprising.

Watch the full film, Raccoon Nation

Pigeons: How Far Do They Fly?

Pigeons are super fast flyers and capable of traveling huge distances in one day. The longest flight ever recorded was 11,000 km over 55 days.  But how far and wide do the pigeons in our cities travel?

Using a group of birds that have been trapped in a central Toronto neighbourhood, Professor Dmitry Kishkinev from the University of Guelph uses the latest in GPS technology to track the birds' movements over a normal day. 

Learn more on The Secret Life of Pigeons.

Coyotes: The Hidden Lurkers

Biologist Stan Gehart and his team have been following radio-collared coyotes from Chicago's downtown core to the suburbs for over twelve years. 

They're difficult to study because of their phantom-like ability to disappear in the landscape. Since we rarely see them, we have the impression that there's very few living amongst us. That assumption is wrong.

Watch the full film, Meet the Coywolf

Squirrels: How Do They See Your Yard?

University of Illinois professor Joel Brown devised a simple experiment to see how a squirrel might perceive an urban backyard.  He placed food trays with sunflower seeds mixed into sand in a grid all over his property. 

As they move in to forage on the food, they'll spend more time digging out the seeds in the areas they feel safest, leaving seeds behind in areas they feel danger. 

At the end of the 24 hour period, he counted up the leftover seeds from each tray to get a mental map of the backyard from the squirrels point of view.

Learn more in Nuts about Squirrels.