American cities where surprising wildlife roams



Slide 1 of 31: From cattle roaming about Fort Worth to bunnies bouncing along the streets of Boston, the residents of many US cities share their space with some extraordinary creatures. For visitors, a close (and often free) encounter with a native North American animal is a big bonus on any US adventure. So whether you’re passing through on a road trip or having a dedicated city break, here's our selection of the best urban areas where you can get back to nature too.
Slide 2 of 31: The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, shopping on Fifth Avenue – when you think of New York’s attractions birds aren’t likely to be top of the list. But if you know where to look the Big Apple is teeming with different species, and has one of the largest populations of Peregrine Falcons in the world. Walks around Central Park with ‘Birding Bob’ are perfect for novices and can help you know your warblers from your great horned owls. Tours take place every Sunday at 7.30am and 9.30am, meeting at the Boathouse. 
Slide 3 of 31: One unexpected side-effect of the COVID-19 outbreak was the number of emboldened raccoons spotted enjoying New York’s Central Park too. Lockdown measures during April contributed to a drop in noise pollution that was especially significant to animals living in urban areas, including this cheeky raccoon who appeared to be giving local joggers a run for their money.
Slide 4 of 31: Lazing around on the pontoons at Pier 39 in San Fran are the city's resident sea lions. Up to 1,700 are gathered at any one time offering a soundtrack of blubbery barking. As the sign says, look but don’t touch because while they seem cute, sea lions can cause serious wounds. They first came to the pier after an earthquake in 1989, lured to the bay by plentiful supplies of herring, sardines and anchovies. 

Slide 5 of 31: The classic dance floor-filler by Fredde Le Grand might instruct you to ‘Put your hands up for Detroit’, but much better advice would be to secure your trash cans when in the city. Raccoons are common here and these cute but pesky mammals create a racket by garbage raiding and stealing pet food. They also often choose to live in attics and chimneys.
Slide 6 of 31: If you’re in the city from late March to October then 20 minutes before sunset head to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. It’s estimated that 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge at dusk, having spent the day hiding on the underside of the bridge. The colony usually fly towards Lady Bird Lake, so standing on the east-side walkway will offer the best views. 
Slide 7 of 31: Home to Bartram’s Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the US and also the Schuylkill Center for environmental education, Philadelphia has a proud record of honoring and preserving local wildlife. Expect to see everything from tiny brown snakes behind flowerpots in gardens to red-back salamanders in the woods. On some evenings in spring an army of toads can be seen heading from the Schuylkill Center’s forest to the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve. Usually during March it's possible to volunteer to help protect the toads – check out the Toad Detour Facebook page for more details. 
Slide 8 of 31: Life in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a hoot thanks to the large population of beautiful barred owls, identifiable by their brown and white striped plumage. You’re most likely to see them in the older neighborhoods that have large trees in which these beautiful birds roost.
Slide 9 of 31: Just two cities in the world are home to wild big cats – Mumbai, India and Los Angeles, California. Studies show there are probably 75 mountain lions living in the Santa Monica Mountains alone, but numbers are dwindling. Save LA Cougars is fundraising to build a crossing over the 101 Freeway which would allow the animals more space to mix and roam. Check out the P22 Mountain Lion of Hollywood Facebook page too for details of P22, the animal who was the subject of the 2017 documentary The Cat That Changed America, plus updates on a virtual festival in October 2020.

Slide 10 of 31: Florida isn't just about Disney attractions. With its Venice-like canals, Fort Lauderdale on the state's southeast coast is a great base for animal lovers. Hop on an airboat at Sawgrass Recreation Park at the edge of the city to see crocodiles and manatees or simply meander down from the city’s beach to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park where you’ll see storks and even gopher tortoises. Now discover the most beautiful state park near you.
Slide 11 of 31: Further north along the east coast you can also catch sight of manatees, the gentle giants of the sea. The elegant port city of Charleston offers not only a pretty French Quarter with rows of historic homes on The Battery (pictured), but also the chance to spot these marine mammals during the summer months. Join a kayaking tour with Coastal Expeditions around Charleston Harbor, which will take you along the Shem Creek up towards Mount Pleasant too. (Don't forget to book and bring a mask.) Be inspired by America's most scenic coastal drives here.
Slide 12 of 31: There are two species of bunnies local to Boston, the New England cottontail (pictured) and the Eastern cottontail. Residents have reported a surge in numbers of both types of furry creatures across the city, with the brazen bunnies even spotted outside the Massachusetts State House in the heart of downtown. Expect to see them more frequently during mating season from March to September.
Slide 13 of 31: From late April onward, Denver is a hub for Hummingbirds, with 11 species returning to the city having wintered in Mexico and Central America. Commonly-spotted species are the broad-tailed, rufous and black-chinned hummingbirds and all can be seen when walking around the city.
Slide 14 of 31: The wings of these stunning butterflies are often compared to stained-glass windows and seeing them in real life is a special experience. Monarch butterflies migrate in swarms between Canada and the United States and Central Mexico. Between late October and February up to 12,000 butterflies can be seen in the Monarch Grove at Pismo Beach, a city on California’s central coast.

Slide 15 of 31: Don’t panic – you won’t find snakes slithering through the streets of downtown Tucson, but nature is never far away in this desert city. Saguaro National Park is right on the edge of town and home to the distinctive saguaro cactus and six different types of rattlesnakes including the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, pictured here. They are the most common in the park and can grow to seven feet (2.1m) long.
Slide 16 of 31: Did you know that Illinois is second only to Alaska when it comes to bald eagle numbers? In the last few years, nesting pairs have been spotted in Lake County and a few miles outside the city in Palos Township. Bald eagles spend the winter in areas such as Louisiana moving up to Midwest states like Illinois in the spring.
Slide 17 of 31: Thanks to the delicious food, Mardi Gras and legendary jazz clubs there are already plenty of reasons to pay a visit to The Big Easy. But if you need extra motivation the city’s wildlife is yet another draw. A boat tour around the swamp and bayous will uncover alligators as well as egrets, snakes and raccoons.
Slide 18 of 31: The Open Space Visitor Center in the north of Albuquerque is a great place to see sandhill cranes migrating during the fall. The beautiful setting has a backdrop of the Sandia Mountains and the bosque along the Rio Grande. The park offers free guided nature walks on the first Sunday of every month too.
Slide 19 of 31: Hats off to the nine-banded armadillo: not only do the females give birth to identical quadruplets (ouch) but the scaly-plated mammals are increasing in numbers across most southern states. The Prairie Park Nature Center, a 10-acre reserve on the east side of Lawrence – Kansas’s sixth-largest city – say they see the shy critters in backyards, driveways and even on the city’s streets.
Slide 20 of 31: Lake Charles is the perfect starting point to explore the 180-mile (290km) Creole Nature Trail that runs through part of the city and extends across the southern portion of the state. Bobcats, spoonbills and the Louisiana ‘pink flamingo’ are the highlights of the urban to outback route. 
Slide 21 of 31: Because of its nutrient-rich water the Santa Barbara Channel is one of the best whale watching spots on the west coast. What you’ll see depends on the time of year: from late spring to early fall humpback whales are common, as is the largest mammal on Earth, the blue whale. From late November to April thousands of Pacific gray whales migrate through the channel as they head south too.
Slide 22 of 31: Residents in Salt Lake City regularly report seeing deer walking along the side of the road. Although originally hailing from the mountains that surround SLC, it’s believed that some have taken up permanent residence in the Salt Lake City Cemetery in The Avenues neighborhood.
Slide 23 of 31: Of course Seattle is a great place for whale watching, but did you know that salmon are common too? At Ballard Locks, a Seattle neighborhood, you can see the salmon migrating up the fish ladder. Different types of the fish can be spotted in most months but peak times for the spectacle are August, September, July and March/early April.
Slide 24 of 31: With around 300 species of fish and wildlife, Portland is a great city to see critters big and small. Forest Park is the place to head to spot woodpeckers, bees and the red-spotted garter snake. In September Vaux’s swifts gather to roost for the night inside the chimney of Chapman Elementary School in northwest Portland, before traveling south for the winter. In this picture they’re captured flying over the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
Slide 25 of 31: Looking like a mini-Miami and packed with great-value hotels, most people come to Virginia Beach for the stunning stretch of uninterrupted sands and outstanding seafood. But because the city is at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on a barrier island, you’ll find shore birds, marsh birds and wintering waterfowl. You can also get up close to adult dolphins and, if you’re lucky, their babies too, on a sea-kayaking tour with chesapean.com.
Slide 26 of 31: Alaska's largest city has 1,500 moose who regularly hold up traffic as they cross roads and even wander into front yards. In fact, there's very little chance of visiting the city and not spotting one. They're usually most active during the mornings and early evening. The moose pictured here was snapped in Kincaid Park, not far from the airport.
Slide 27 of 31: Thanks to the White House and its West Wing, Washington DC might seem like an austere seat of power. Yet the city offers so much more including superb free museums and a sizzling foodie scene. Canadian geese are a common sight, gathering around monuments and also on the National Mall lawn near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Usually a migratory bird, many stay in the city year-round.
Slide 28 of 31: It's estimated 75,000 to 80,000 Canada geese call the Garden State home, but sightings of the birds don’t always spark joy. In early 2020 there were calls to stop people feeding the animals because their rising numbers and droppings are becoming a health hazard. Drawn by grassy areas near lakes and ponds, spots such as New Jersey are the perfect habitat for the birds. While our picture shows them on the shoreline of the Hudson River overlooking Manhattan at sunset, this video captures a couple of geese hanging out in the parking lot of the Newport Plaza mall in the heart of Jersey City. 
Slide 29 of 31: Monterey Bay – which extends south from the city of Santa Cruz – has had a boost since it provided the backdrop for TV show Big Little Lies. Monterey's other claim to fame though is a large population of sea otters, turning up the cuteness levels to at least 11 out of 10. Head to Moss Landing State Beach and you’re sure to spot these cuddly-looking mammals, who often join paws when snoozing so they don’t drift apart.
Slide 30 of 31: Coyotes are commonly found in cities across North America and have been co-existing with humans for hundreds of years. Sightings are common in Milwaukee, especially during April, which is the pup rearing season. Milwaukee County Coyote Watch has several tagged coyotes and you can report sightings of the animals here.
Slide 31 of 31: If you happen to be in the Stockyards at 11.30am and 4pm and see cattle roaming around the streets, there’s no need to be alarmed. Fort Worth’s herd of longhorns at the city’s Stockyards is the only twice daily cattle drive in the world. And it’s managed by authentic Texan cowhands. Yeehaw! READ MORE: See amazing America from above

It’s an urban jungle out there

From cattle roaming about Fort Worth to bunnies bouncing along the streets of Boston, the residents of many US cities share their space with some extraordinary creatures. For visitors, a close (and often free) encounter with a native North American animal is a big bonus on any US adventure. So whether you’re passing through on a road trip or having a dedicated city break, here’s our selection of the best urban areas where you can get back to nature too.

Birdlife in New York City

The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, shopping on Fifth Avenue – when you think of New York’s attractions birds aren’t likely to be top of the list. But if you know where to look the Big Apple is teeming with different species, and has one of the largest populations of Peregrine Falcons in the world. Walks around Central Park with ‘Birding Bob’ are perfect for novices and can help you know your warblers from your great horned owls. Tours take place every Sunday at 7.30am and 9.30am, meeting at the Boathouse. 

Raccoons in New York City

One unexpected side-effect of the COVID-19 outbreak was the number of emboldened raccoons spotted enjoying New York’s Central Park too. Lockdown measures during April contributed to a drop in noise pollution that was especially significant to animals living in urban areas, including this cheeky raccoon who appeared to be giving local joggers a run for their money.

Sea lions in San Francisco, California

Lazing around on the pontoons at Pier 39 in San Fran are the city’s resident sea lions. Up to 1,700 are gathered at any one time offering a soundtrack of blubbery barking. As the sign says, look but don’t touch because while they seem cute, sea lions can cause serious wounds. They first came to the pier after an earthquake in 1989, lured to the bay by plentiful supplies of herring, sardines and anchovies. 

Raccoons in Detroit, Michigan

The classic dance floor-filler by Fredde Le Grand might instruct you to ‘Put your hands up for Detroit’, but much better advice would be to secure your trash cans when in the city. Raccoons are common here and these cute but pesky mammals create a racket by garbage raiding and stealing pet food. They also often choose to live in attics and chimneys.

Bats in Austin, Texas

If you’re in the city from late March to October then 20 minutes before sunset head to the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. It’s estimated that 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge at dusk, having spent the day hiding on the underside of the bridge. The colony usually fly towards Lady Bird Lake, so standing on the east-side walkway will offer the best views. 

American toads in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Home to Bartram’s Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the US and also the Schuylkill Center for environmental education, Philadelphia has a proud record of honoring and preserving local wildlife. Expect to see everything from tiny brown snakes behind flowerpots in gardens to red-back salamanders in the woods. On some evenings in spring an army of toads can be seen heading from the Schuylkill Center’s forest to the Upper Roxborough Reservoir Preserve. Usually during March it’s possible to volunteer to help protect the toads – check out the Toad Detour Facebook page for more details. 

Barred owls in Charlotte, North Carolina

Mountain lions in Los Angeles, California

Just two cities in the world are home to wild big cats – Mumbai, India and Los Angeles, California. Studies show there are probably 75 mountain lions living in the Santa Monica Mountains alone, but numbers are dwindling. Save LA Cougars is fundraising to build a crossing over the 101 Freeway which would allow the animals more space to mix and roam. Check out the P22 Mountain Lion of Hollywood Facebook page too for details of P22, the animal who was the subject of the 2017 documentary The Cat That Changed America, plus updates on a virtual festival in October 2020.

Gopher tortoises in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Florida isn’t just about Disney attractions. With its Venice-like canals, Fort Lauderdale on the state’s southeast coast is a great base for animal lovers. Hop on an airboat at Sawgrass Recreation Park at the edge of the city to see crocodiles and manatees or simply meander down from the city’s beach to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park where you’ll see storks and even gopher tortoises. Now discover the most beautiful state park near you.

Manatees in Charleston, South Carolina

Further north along the east coast you can also catch sight of manatees, the gentle giants of the sea. The elegant port city of Charleston offers not only a pretty French Quarter with rows of historic homes on The Battery (pictured), but also the chance to spot these marine mammals during the summer months. Join a kayaking tour with Coastal Expeditions around Charleston Harbor, which will take you along the Shem Creek up towards Mount Pleasant too. (Don’t forget to book and bring a mask.) Be inspired by America’s most scenic coastal drives here.

Cottontail rabbits in Boston, Massachusetts

Hummingbirds in Denver, Colorado

Monarch butterflies in Pismo Beach, California

Rattlesnakes in Tucson, Arizona

Bald Eagles in Chicago, Illinois

Alligators in New Orleans, Louisiana

Thanks to the delicious food, Mardi Gras and legendary jazz clubs there are already plenty of reasons to pay a visit to The Big Easy. But if you need extra motivation the city’s wildlife is yet another draw. A boat tour around the swamp and bayous will uncover alligators as well as egrets, snakes and raccoons.

Cranes in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Open Space Visitor Center in the north of Albuquerque is a great place to see sandhill cranes migrating during the fall. The beautiful setting has a backdrop of the Sandia Mountains and the bosque along the Rio Grande. The park offers free guided nature walks on the first Sunday of every month too.

Nine-banded armadillos in Lawrence, Kansas

Hats off to the nine-banded armadillo: not only do the females give birth to identical quadruplets (ouch) but the scaly-plated mammals are increasing in numbers across most southern states. The Prairie Park Nature Center, a 10-acre reserve on the east side of Lawrence – Kansas’s sixth-largest city – say they see the shy critters in backyards, driveways and even on the city’s streets.

Bobcats in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Charles is the perfect starting point to explore the 180-mile (290km) Creole Nature Trail that runs through part of the city and extends across the southern portion of the state. Bobcats, spoonbills and the Louisiana ‘pink flamingo’ are the highlights of the urban to outback route. 

Whale watching in Santa Barbara, California

Deer in Salt Lake City, Utah

Salmon in Seattle, Washington

Vaux’s swifts in Portland, Oregon

Dolphins in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Looking like a mini-Miami and packed with great-value hotels, most people come to Virginia Beach for the stunning stretch of uninterrupted sands and outstanding seafood. But because the city is at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on a barrier island, you’ll find shore birds, marsh birds and wintering waterfowl. You can also get up close to adult dolphins and, if you’re lucky, their babies too, on a sea-kayaking tour with chesapean.com.

Moose in Anchorage, Alaska

Geese in Washington DC

Geese in Jersey City, New Jersey

It’s estimated 75,000 to 80,000 Canada geese call the Garden State home, but sightings of the birds don’t always spark joy. In early 2020 there were calls to stop people feeding the animals because their rising numbers and droppings are becoming a health hazard. Drawn by grassy areas near lakes and ponds, spots such as New Jersey are the perfect habitat for the birds. While our picture shows them on the shoreline of the Hudson River overlooking Manhattan at sunset, this video captures a couple of geese hanging out in the parking lot of the Newport Plaza mall in the heart of Jersey City. 

Sea otters in Monterey, California

Monterey Bay – which extends south from the city of Santa Cruz – has had a boost since it provided the backdrop for TV show Big Little Lies. Monterey’s other claim to fame though is a large population of sea otters, turning up the cuteness levels to at least 11 out of 10. Head to Moss Landing State Beach and you’re sure to spot these cuddly-looking mammals, who often join paws when snoozing so they don’t drift apart.

Coyotes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Coyotes are commonly found in cities across North America and have been co-existing with humans for hundreds of years. Sightings are common in Milwaukee, especially during April, which is the pup rearing season. Milwaukee County Coyote Watch has several tagged coyotes and you can report sightings of the animals here.

Cattle drive, Fort Worth, Texas

If you happen to be in the Stockyards at 11.30am and 4pm and see cattle roaming around the streets, there’s no need to be alarmed. Fort Worth’s herd of longhorns at the city’s Stockyards is the only twice daily cattle drive in the world. And it’s managed by authentic Texan cowhands. Yeehaw!

READ MORE: See amazing America from above

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