Wildlife Takeover? Well, Maybe Not, But Animals Are Becoming More Visible

It seems the squirrels aren’t afraid anymore.

And the possums come out in the daytime, coyotes roam the streets and turkeys journey from one side of Everett to the other.

Though it’s up for debate just why, wildlife experts agree that COVID-19 – especially during the lockdown periods in March and April – have changed the habits of animals living in the wild in urban areas like Everett.

Animal Control Officer Stacia Gorgone said furry creatures in Everett certainly had the run of the city during the lockdown, and now that things are opening slowly, they are still much more active than pre-COVID times.

Yet, at the same time, part of this phenomenon of “wildlife taking over” is due to people being around more often as well.

It all adds up to a wild world, indeed.

“Animals really are taking back their Earth,” said Gorgone. “They took back Everett too. I guess if Everett is going to be taken over, I’d rather it be by the furry animals.”

Gorgone said the phenomenon is real in Everett, and all over the world. She pointed to the cleaner waters in Venice where dolphins are coming into the canals for the first time ever. She said local beaches are cleaner and attracting more sea creatures.

In Everett, she said animal deaths and injuries were down to zero and continue to be, which is very rare during the wildlife breeding season in the spring.

“With COVID-19, we were all at home,” she said. “There were no cars on the streets. I would drive around and see the turkeys go from one side of the city to the other. They are definitely taking over. I think it is a good thing, but people are scared of the coyotes. That’s always been a huge concern in Everett, but they are coyotes being coyotes. On the coyote problem, I don’t agree with the experts. We’re in the city and not the woods. However, all the other wildlife had a new found enjoyment because we were inside and there were no cars. They just roamed the city and it was fun to see.”

Marion Larson, of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said there were a lot of wildlife that were out and using the roads because there were no cars – which was different. However, she said they believe most of the phenomenon is just the fact that people were home and seeing animals for the first time.

“We have had people think because they see more wildlife, they are taking over,” said Larson. “That’s not what’ happening. What’s happening is the wildlife were there all along. The people who have been very busy at work, going to school are now at home. They have been spending more time in their yards and walking around the neighborhoods at times when they usually aren’t. They’re seeing these wild animals for the first time and not realizing they were there all along.”

She said they have gotten a lot more calls in the last several months asking what to do about the wildlife – whether they can be trapped or sent away.

“We generally tell people to leave them alone,” she said. “We’re certainly getting more calls and it’s because people are spending more time right around their home. Animals aren’t taking over or flocking into the city.”

Larson said wildlife typically try to avoid humans, and even coyotes don’t seek out human contact or conflict with pets – a major concern in Everett. She said a lot of it has to do with trash and with more people at home more often, there is a lot more trash being stored. That, in turn, might be attracting new critters that perhaps didn’t venture so far into some neighborhoods before.

“The major attraction is always food,” she said. “If you have trash outside, put pet food outside, or you feed birds outside, you also attract skunks, coyotes and all the animals that like to eat what people eat…If you limit the food source, they’ll still be around, but they won’t be likely to linger.”

Gorgone said there is a new problem popping up in Everett, and that is the people who are trying to get rid of the newfound wildlife now that things are opening up.

She said one person had someone trap squirrels on a hot roof last week, torturing the animals for three hours before attending to the cages. Another person had raccoons trapped and wanted to remove them – that after the person cut down the tree the raccoons were living in.

All of that points to a much bigger problem, she said, of exterminators coming into the city to remove wildlife that people are just discovering now that they’re home more.

“There’s a lot of good from the wildlife,” she said. “People don’t realize possums are our friends. They don’t carry rabies and they eat ticks and other pests. We want them. I am preparing something for the Council about exterminators that are now coming in. That shouldn’t be allowed. It’s a state law that allows it, but I think Everett needs a more strict ordinance to prevent that. That will be coming up.”

Larson said another good part of the wildlife discoveries is to learn about the animals with children or other adults. Many of their habits and ways are in full view now, and can be interesting to learn about. She said anyone who wants to know more information on any of the animals can find details on their website at www.mass.gov/learn-about-wildlife.

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