Animal house | Bleader

  • John Athayde
Though it’s not every day that untamed large animals roam the streets of an American city, that happens to be the fate that befell Zanesville, Ohio, yesterday, when the owner of a local preserve liberated his exotic charges. The released animals, according to the New York Times, included lions, wolves, bears, and “at least one tiger.” One of the lions killed one of the monkeys; an unidentified animal was hit by a car; but that bloodshed would pale in comparison to the measures taken by the local authorities in the name of protecting the human populace. They killed at least 25 of the estimated 48 to 51 animals on the loose.

Ryan Chew reported in the Reader a few years ago on animal invasions that can sometimes take subtler forms. “Like many immigrant groups, canids began moving into Chicago quietly,” began an article that found coyotes and foxes increasing their numbers—and their confidence levels—within city limits:

Bob Long, who runs fishing programs for the Park District, has seen coyotes and foxes in surprising places on the south side. "As fishermen, we happen to be in places at times where others aren't going to be, clambering around in the rocks on the lakefront at 4 AM," he says. "We find bones that look like they've been eaten by something, chewed up more than a bird of prey is going to do. Areas cleared of squirrels and rabbits, and the only reason is because a predator has been around. I've seen coyotes running along the rocks between 47th Street and 39th." Two years ago he saw a large coyote and two smaller ones in Jackson Park. "They were just running around smelling things. At first I thought they were small German shepherds, but they were low-slung. Definitely coyotes. They were just wandering around, very casual—at a good clip but not running particularly fast. They seemed very comfortable."

And this was before that cougar showed up in Roscoe Village.

Of course, coyotes and foxes aren’t the only ones trying to encroach on our space. Last year a trio of Reader writers grappled with the Asian carp invasion, with Mika Sula taking the “if you can’t beat 'em, eat 'em” approach. "It's a very good fish," Philip Foss, who’d been tasked with cooking it, told Sula. "About as good of a freshwater fish as I've found, period. Very rich."

Control-by-consumption isn’t a tactic that’s caught on just yet with Asian carp, but midwesterners use it to great success with one regional population: white-tailed deer, whose season is upon us. (The hunters' season, that is. It's probably not the best time for the deer themselves.) Where I’m from (the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) deer hunting is an art, a science, and a holiday—as kids we got the opening day of (firearm) deer season off of school every year. Things have evolved since the hoary days of deer blinds and salt licks, though: this year's hunters will be able to pursue their quarry with something called the Deer Scouter, which the Reader received a press release about earlier today. The brainchild of Jeremy Rich and Anthony and Tony Spina, it is—of course—an app:

Rich says Deer Scouter will do several things: It plots points like deer sightings, scrapes, rubs, beds, trails, blood, sheds, droppings and more, and overlays Google Earth maps, giving you a great idea of deer activity in your hunting area. It also can record past activity going back as far as you’d like—in Rich’s case, to his father’s hunts for many years on their favorite piece of ground, which has become almost sacred to them. And you can record, as Rich terms it, “the history, the data, the special bonds,” that all long time hunters accumulate.

Update: crayfish, too.

They appeared on the east side too, after a big August storm, crawling up to the asphalt bike path and warning off curious dog walkers and joggers by arching their backs and thrusting their claws into the air. It was a seasoned army—some had tiny, malformed or mangled claws, others were amputees. But their size and numbers seemed biblical in the setting of a city park. The next day, evidence of the plague in River Park was gone—except for the ones that had been mauled by children or flattened under car wheels on Argyle.