Posts Tagged ‘Wild New York’

Meet the “pond janitors” of New York City

July 2, 2012

Turtles have long inhabited the city’s ponds and estuaries.

But only one type, the cantankerous snapping turtle, has been dubbed the city’s “most successful native reptile.”

“Nearly every body of water, no matter how small, contains at least one snapping turtle,” states Wild New York, by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson.

Not only do they thrive in ponds as well as salty waterways, these creatures been found in notoriously polluted areas, like Queens’ Newtown Creek.

Just don’t expect to see one sunning on a rock.

“Snapping turtles manage to keep a low profile by spending most of their time submerged,” write Mittelbach and Crewdson.

“Although they may snatch an occasional duckling or gosling, snapping turtles more commonly eat dead fish, expired frogs, aquatic vegetation, and even sandwiches dropped into the water.” Hence, “pond janitors.”

After surviving and adapting over the past 400 years, they’ve earned respect—and a place on some of the city’s fountains.

The sculpture above sits in a fountain at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on East 47th Street.

Another sculpted snapper, at right, is carved into the base of the Pomona statue in front of the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.

[Top photo: Brian S. Padden; middle: Wally Gobetz]

The escapee jackrabbits of JFK airport

August 22, 2011

Next time you’re on a plane taxiing around John F. Kennedy International Airport, look out for one of the estimated 50-100 black-tailed jackrabbits who make their home in the flatlands beside the runways.

Like pigeons and sparrows, they’re not native New Yorkers. They’re the progeny of fugitive rabbits native to the U.S. West from a shipment that arrived at JFK about 50 years ago.

A crate of these two-foot rabbits “was supposed to be shipped to a game farm, where the rabbits would be stalked by hunters,” states Wild New York, by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson.

“Instead, the jackrabbits broke loose and discovered that the grassy areas alongside the runways were similar to their native desert flatlands.”

“The escaped jackrabbits and their descendants have been living at JFK ever since—and new litters of baby jackrabbits are born at the airport every spring.”

Life at JFK isn’t easy for these guys. Between 2000 and 2008, about 39 jackrabbits met their maker after colliding with planes, according to this New York Post article.

[photo copyright BK atzung]

How pigeons came to love New York City

May 9, 2011

The lowly street pigeon is a common (and lets face it, often despised) creature here in the city. But they’re not lowly, and they aren’t even New York natives.

These hardy birds are also called Rock Doves, originally found on the cliffs of the Mediterranean. European aristocrats bred them for hunting and eating.

In the 17th century, colonists bound for New Amsterdam brought along domesticated rock doves, where they were destined for dinner plates.

Soon some captive Rock Doves escaped, and as the city developed, these gregarious birds took to the parks, statues, fire escapes, and skyscrapers New York offered.

Over the years, the city has tried everything to reduce their numbers: poison, traps, even avian birth control pills.

Perhaps the one thing that will work is an increase in the falcon population. “It’s been estimated that these predatory birds remove 200 pigeons from city streets each week,” states Wild New York, by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson.

[Photo: a city pigeon takes it all in from the top of the Empire State Building]