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How animal cameras are capturing Seattle’s wild side

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, researchers are peeking into the lives of animals who are trying to make it in the big city. Using strategically placed cameras, they’re trying to answer how urban life affects wild animals at the top of the food chain. Special correspondent Eric Keto has the nocturnal story from KCTS in Seattle.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now to a NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that we thought might be of interest to you.

    In Seattle, trail cameras in urban parks are giving researchers new insights into how coyotes, raccoons, and other carnivores are thriving in the harsh environment of big cities.

    From PBS station KCTS in Seattle, Eric Keto sent in this nocturnal story.

  • Mark Jordan:

    We get some photographs that are just amazing, like the raccoons posing in front of the camera or the coyote at the water hole, all sorts of cool things.

    I'm Mark Jordan, associate professor of biology at Seattle University, and I am a conservation biologist.

    The big-picture question I'm interested in is, how does urbanization affect wild mammals, in particular predatory mammals that are higher up on the food chain?

    Is it that way? We will try that way first.

    We're using camera traps to identify raccoons and opossums and coyotes in the parks in Seattle.

  • Woman:

    Yes, here it is.

  • Mark Jordan:

    Understanding the wildness that surrounds us, I think, is very valuable for us, deepening our understanding of the natural world; 2,321 pictures.


  • Mark Jordan:

    From last summer, we have 50,000 photos to go through, and we put out a baited station, so we get about 100 to 150 hair samples.

    My students right now are working on a project where they're coming up with a genetic way to identify the species that left a hair sample, to try to figure out, how does urbanization affect their ability to move around the city?

    I would argue that the city is as much a natural area as what we call more wilderness areas. Now, the physical environment itself has been changed, but the general rules of ecology still apply. The species out there are still interacting with each other. Now, they're coming into interactions with us more frequently.

    And one of the really interesting insights has been, as you increase urbanization, you actually get an increase in the detections of raccoons.

    So, within a square kilometer of Seattle, you might actually find more mammalian carnivores than you would in the same square kilometer out in the forest.

    We have gotten at least one photograph of a raccoon in every single park that we have sampled.

    Oh, that one's missing a tail.

    There are a couple hypothesis. One is that in urban areas, things like mountain lions in particular, are not competing with or eating raccoons. Also, of course, we have a lot of trash. We leave out food for our pets, all sorts of resources that these animals like.

    Any pocket park in a neighborhood, look for a big tree. Raccoons do kind of a daily commute, especially in the summer, when the moms have their kits, because you can hang out near the base of the tree and see them coming up and down.

    We create conditions for raccoons that tend to make them quite happy. Nature doesn't stop at the edge of the city.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The things that go on in the dark of the night.

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