Most people go to the zoo when they want to experience wildlife, but increasingly in local suburbs, they can see a wide array of animals in their neighborhoods and backyards.
Here in Massachusetts, nature is on a roll.
All kinds of species are returning to places they haven’t been in years and that’s making many people nervous.
Stacey Leighton and her family recently had a coyote come right up to their front door.
"My heart was racing," said Leighton.
Leighton has a first-grade son and a small Pomeranian named Addie and she is concerned for their safety.
"A lot times I feel like we are in the Wild Kingdom right now, in the middle of Medfield!" said Leighton.
This is a common scenario across Massachusetts as wild turkeys are taking over streets in Brookline and bears are coming right onto porches looking for snacks.
A woman hiking in the Saugus woods with her dog ended up climbing a tree and calling 911 when she encountered a coyote.
Dave Wattles of the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife says many species have come back in big numbers.
One reason for this surge is that the state has more forests today because farms have closed and something known as “Re-Forestization” has taken place.
"There is a lot of forest and habitat,” said Wattles. “But there is a lot of places where we have punched development into those blocks of forest. So now you have housing developments that finger into those forest blocks that are natural habitat for wildlife, so there is an immediate association between the neighborhoods.”
This is particularly true when those animals are hungry and are looking for easy sources of food.
“The main driver of all the issues in these suburban areas is people who are providing food to the wildlife both intentionally and unintentionally,” said Wattles. “The reason the animals are there is the food rewards they get.”
Another contributing factor has been the push in many communities to preserve open space or create parks. It turns out the animals like them just as much as we do.
In general, these animals aren’t harmful if people give them space.
“Coyotes in reality are only about 40 lbs. in Massachusetts so they don't pose a great threat to people. We have coyotes in every single town in Massachusetts, including downtown Boston. We've only ever had 10 incidents where coyotes have bitten people,” explained Wattles.
While there is an upside to seeing nature flourish, it’s still a little unsettling for some people to have it happening on their front steps.
“The coyotes, the foxes, the hawks,” said Leighton. “I’m shocked that they’re really so close to my home.”
The state has put together a tip sheet for residents on how to deal with wildlife.
© 2021 Cox Media Group