Wildlife discovers many nooks, crannies because of environmental laws,
By Eric Lacy / The Detroit News
Places to view wildlife
Belle Isle, the banks of the Detroit River, Riverside Park, Rouge
Park, Balduck Park, Clark Park, Maharis Gentry Park, Elmwood Cemetery
and Historic Fort Wayne,.
Source: Detroit News research
DETROIT -- There's a resurgence of wildlife in Detroit, thanks to
three decades of strict environmental laws, the city's declining
population and nature's determination to survive.The revival is
evident along the Detroit River and near landmarks like the
Renaissance Center, Fisher Building, Book Tower and Hart Plaza. And
even in less desirable places: abandoned homes, weed-filled alleys and
vacant lots.Small predators -- falcons, hawks and even eagles -- have
been spotted over Detroit, and they've enlisted in the war against
rodents. Unusual trees, plants and flowers have sprung up in
cemeteries, parks and even the rooftops of abandoned buildings.
"The city has a rich natural heritage that hasn't been explored," said
Suzan Campbell, a former city naturalist. "It's truly remarkable and
"As people are sprawling outward, it's great to see positive things
with wildlife and nature happening here," said Nick Sousanis, an
artist, writer and adjunct faculty member at Wayne State University.
Sousanis, who moved to Detroit five years ago, hopes state and city
officials find ways to promote this rebirth to help change Detroit's
"I think we need to reclaim this city and embrace what's going on here
because it is here," said Sousanis, 32. "Nature is going to take back
what it wants to take back."
Peregrine falcons are a major indicator of Detroit's improved air and
water quality. Once at the brink of extinction, there are as many as
17 nesting falcons in the city -- depending on the time of year.
The falcons were introduced in Detroit as part of a state-sponsored
program begun in the 1980s to save the species.
They continue to live well and produce offspring because they like
high-rise buildings and have plenty of pigeons and other birds to eat.
Lifelong Detroiter Allen Barksdale, 60, is encouraged by the presence
of falcons in the city. He hopes the return of the falcons and other
animals, such as hawks, foxes and pheasants, is a sign the city's
nature will recover.
"I've read stories about when (Antoine de la Mothe) Cadillac arrived
here and there were all these animals, birds and fish," he said. "So
I'm hopeful a lot of what he saw can come back so we can appreciate it."
Expert Judith Yerkey, a former state-sponsored environmental
researcher, says there are only about 40 peregrine falcons in the
state. It's remarkable that about half of them are flying around the
city, she said.
"What's happening with the falcons and other wildlife is clear
evidence that the city is getting cleaner and healthier for humans as
well," Yerkey said.
Lower emissions of pesticides and other chemicals into the air also
has resulted in the return of bald eagles.
Peche Island, just east of Belle Isle, is a nesting place for eagles,
which often fly into the city.
They were rare in Detroit just five years ago, said John Hartig,
manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
"The eagles are a major success story because there's young being
produced," Hartig said. "That's proof the environment has improved."
Plant life also is thriving, which has created great habitats in
Detroit for traditionally rural animals. But threatened species of
trees found in the city include pumpkin ash and shumard oak.
"As we have opened up these kinds of corridors of vacant lots and
abandoned property, animals are now making their way through,"
"We're not talking bears, lions and tigers, but animals like foxes are
actually great at rodent control. We could use some more small
predators in the city."
The resurgence of animals and plant life in Detroit is an upside of
its decline in population. But deliberate conservation and
environmental cleanup measures, begun in the 1970s, share the credit.
You can reach Eric Lacy at (734) 462-2674 or elacy@...