JP Observer: Living with wildlife in our urban area

August 31, 2012
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As though on cue, as the sun fell on the evening of July 31, the crickets began chirping in Jamaica Plain for the first time this year—signaling that summer is waning.

Right around the same time, another Jamaica Plain insect made the news as mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus were found here, something that has happened nearly every summer for the past 10 years.

Crickets and the mosquitoes are tiny reminders of just how close wildlife is to all of us in JP and of how influential animals can be, even on in a city neighborhood.

As crickets provide a pleasant sound in the evening, people here need to protect themselves from disease-carrying mosquitoes, especially starting at dusk. Being aware of the critters around us and how they affect us, good and bad, is important.

Common animals here, in addition to insects and birds that feed on them, include butterflies, skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, opossums and mice. Yes, JP also has its share of rats, as most cities do. The trick, of course, is to keep animals out of our homes and safely away from us without harming them, if possible.

City of Boston Animal Control (cityofboston.gov/animalcontrol/wildlife/) offers extensive “Wildlife Problems and Solutions” info. Tips range from what to do about animals living under a porch, to opossums playing opossum, to a bat in the house.

Just as JP, at the end of the Emerald Necklace, is surrounded by green space on three sides, so it is surrounded by more significant wildlife that sometimes finds its way into residential areas.

According to JP resident and naturalist Stephen Baird, a leader of Friends of Jamaica Pond and the Emerald Necklace Bird Club, coyotes now live in all of JP’s major green spaces, as do gray and red foxes.

The Franklin Park Coalition website (franklinparkcoalition.org) says the park has recently been home to a deer as well as snapping turtles, owls and red-tailed hawks.

Jamaica Pond Park (friendsofjamaicapond.org.) hosts some well-known wildlife. An albino gray squirrel there became quite famous recently, including in the logo of the JP Music Festival. The swans and ducks are also popular.

Mass Audubon operates the 67-acre Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary (massaudubon.org/Nature_Connection/Sanctuaries), which offers educational programs and walking trails on Walk Hill Street near the Woodbourne neighborhood.

“Living With Wildlife” is an online (massaudubon.org) service that offers help to people dealing with creatures around them. People can also “Ask the Wildlife Expert” by calling 781-259-2150.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center on S. Huntington Ave. (mspca.org) also promotes “harmonious and peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife.”

The end of this column occurred quite naturally. Just as I was saving the first draft, my downstairs tenant called to offer to keep me company if I would remove a dead squirrel she found in the yard. It appeared to have fallen in a rainstorm. Shovel in one gloved hand, trash bag in the other, I dealt with the death part of living with wildlife.