BEDFORD, N.Y. – Over the past few decades, the suburbia nature of Westchester and Fairfield Counties has been growing more wild. Residents have reported sightings of bobcats, coyotes, fishers, foxes and black bears — oh, my.
While these species are known to take refuge in the areas, not much is known about exactly where they live, according to the Westmoreland Sanctuary, a nonprofit nature center and 640-acre wildlife preserve located in the towns of Bedford and North Castle.
For example, it is not known whether bobcats are more likely to be found in Bedford or Greenwich — or when they first started to appear.
To answer these questions, the Westmoreland Sanctuary and the Mianus River Gorge, located in Bedford, have joined forces in the Wild Suburbia Project. And they are turning to local residents of each county for the answers.
“We’re eager to get a better picture of where these species are being observed in Westchester and Fairfield,” project co-coordinator and Westmoreland Sanctuary naturalist Adam Zorn said.
“After collecting bobcat sightings from around Westchester County for the last eight years, we’re looking forward to developing a more thorough understanding of where they are carving out a living in this suburban landscape. And except for the coyote, these species were found historically in our area. They were originally driven out by human activities. The ones coming back have learned to live with us. That is fascinating,” he added.
Zorn, along with Chris Nagy and Mark Weckel of the Mianus River Gorge, will be hosting a series of workshops to launch the Wild Suburbia Project. Events are at 7 p.m. on April 4 at Teatown Lake Reservation, April 18 at Westmoreland Sanctuary, April 25 at Greenburgh Nature Center, and May 2 at Rye Nature Center.
“We are inviting the public to attend these events, learn about these new critters, ask us questions, and find how to participate in our project,” said Zorn. “We need as many people as possible to get involved and tell us about their wildlife sightings for this study to work.”
Those interested can register for the project by filling out an initial survey regarding the presence or absence of each of the species at their place of residence at www.wildsuburbiaproject.com.
Upon completion of the initial survey detailing any past sightings, participants will be able to report any new sightings of the five target species from any location in the NYC metropolitan area.
Once residents begin to submit their residence surveys, sightings maps for each of the five target species will be displayed on the project website.
“The Mianus River Gorge has used similar methods to map coyote and owl habitat, but never five species at once,” said Chris Nagy of the Mianus River Gorge. “We are very excited to be teaming up with Westmoreland on this project.”