Shaping Chicago’s Human-Wildlife Interactions

January 26, 2022

Why do we do science?

There isn’t one answer. People become scientists for various reasons: to advance human knowledge, to solve interesting and challenging puzzles, to be the first one in the world to know something. I got into science for my own modest, humble reason; I wanted to change the world. Who doesn’t, right?

You don’t change the world by writing science papers and talking about your work at research conferences, though you have to start that way. You change the world by taking what you learn, somehow bringing it out into the real world, and convincing people to use it to do things differently. It sounds really easy. Believe me, it isn’t.

At the Urban Wildlife Institute, our mission is to help people and wildlife co-exist in cities. We can’t do that all on our own. We learn about what the animals need and come up with ways to minimize conflict between them and people. Then, we take that information to urban wildlife managers, architects, urban planners, developers, and others. We try to convince them that wildlife has a place here, and that they should work together with us to help give animals a seat at the table.

That’s why we were so excited to have the opportunity to partner with Chicago’s Animal Care and Control department to draft a new Wildlife Management and Coexistence plan for the city. We combined our science with their deep knowledge and understanding of local wildlife issues to create a new path forward for people and animals in Chicago. This plan will guide the way Animal Care and Control responds to calls about wildlife−everything from skunks to squirrels─using cutting edge science and ensuring that we prioritize both human health and animal welfare. You can read it here!

The Urban Wildlife Institute is honored to be a part of shaping human-wildlife interactions for Chicago, but we’re not stopping there. Through the Urban Wildlife Information Network, an alliance of 42 partners studying urban wildlife under our guidance, we have the opportunity to make the basics of this plan available to other cities around the world. It will need some adjustment, since different cities have different species. Still, we think it’s a great first step for any city looking for tips on how to live with wildlife.

There’s no better feeling than using your science to change the world, whether that’s for people, for animals, or, ideally both! Keep your eyes peeled for animals as you go to school, work, or to the zoo, and no matter what you see, remember that there’s a plan for how we can thrive alongside them.

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