April 24, 2019

Some Suggestions About Making Princeton Wildlife-Friendly

To the Editor:

We are in the midst of an environmental and wildlife crisis. Earth’s conditions are rapidly changing and extinctions are occurring at expedited rates, with many animals being overtaken by human activity. Since we have caused much of this decimation, it is our responsibility to fix it. Although it seems overwhelming, there are steps we as a community can take to help ensure a future for our local wildlife. So what can you do?

On an individual scale, you can help through responsible pet ownership. Domestic cats kill billions of wild birds, mammals, and reptiles every year, driving many to extinction. If you have pet cats, please keep them inside. Watch your dogs when they’re outside to prevent them from catching wildlife. When getting a new pet, consider if you will be able to care for them at their adult size and for their entire life. If not, choose a different pet. If you can no longer care for your pet, don’t release it. Releasing pets can cause environmental catastrophe, as they can establish invasive wild populations that take over and harm local ecosystems. An example of this destruction is in Florida, where Burmese pythons are taking over the Everglades. Instead, find a place that will take your pet, such as a shelter.

You can also ensure that your property is both wildlife and environmentally friendly. If you own land, leave some of it forested! Having strips of habitat connecting bigger habitat patches benefits wild animal populations in important ways. Animals use these pathways, known as corridors, to travel between fragments of habitat. Corridors create more genetic diversity, which creates populations better able to survive tough conditions. If you cut down trees or bushes, do it in fall or winter, when babies have grown up and won’t get trapped. If you live somewhere without much land, keep local plants on your patio or any outdoor space for animals such as butterflies, birds, and bees.

On a larger scale, Princeton should design wildlife-friendly infrastructure. Corridors can be city-wide projects to connect large patches of forest in order to allow animals to safely move between them. This design would let members of different populations that would otherwise be isolated exchange genes. The corridor concept applies to Princeton because we have many isolated patches of forest. Fencing often prevents animals from traveling between these habitat patches, as well.

Wildlife bridges and tunnels are methods that have been successful in many countries. These structures allow for wildlife to safely cross highways without having to dodge speeding cars. This concept benefits humans, too, as it reduces car accidents involving animals. Considering the immense deer population in Princeton and the large number of accidents in which they are involved, wildlife bridges would be a great addition for us and our wild neighbors. If we can all work together to help keep Princeton wildlife-friendly, we can make a difference in the lives of animals both present and future.

Amanda Ostendorf
Great Road