Cougars and leopards and phythons, oh my ... and we're talking about cities


Maybe it's just me, but I have mixed feelings about sharing my habitat. When it comes to deer and raccoon, I'm cheerful, even encouraging; when it comes to cougars and pythons, not so much. Now a fascinating cable special Sunday (Aug. 3) finds wildlife in cities everywhere. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES


Looking for some wildlife? It may be a lot closer than you
think.


There are coyotes in Chicago, a cable special says, and
cougars in Los Angeles. Bats fill Austin, Texas; leopards rule parts of Mumbai.
And amid the luxury of California’s Tahoe area, there’s a surprise:


“Folks show up for Christmas vacation … and there’s a bear
in the house,” Boone Smith said.


Smith is one of the people who made “Urban Jungle,” a
three-hour, two-network project Sunday. “These animals really have us figured
out,” he said.


The longer they live in a city, it seems, the more they know.
Geoff Luck, the “Urban Jungle” producer, said one scientist told him: “Toronto
(has) the most densely populated raccoons in the world and they are actually
getting smarter than their country cousins.”


Some city-dwellers doubt all this, because they’ve never
seen critters. Steve Winter, a photographer, points to people in a Mumbai
neighborhood, at the edge of a park: “They had lived there for 10 years and
didn’t even know the leopards were there.”


He showed them the photos: “People would do their walking,
exercising, walk their dogs, like we do in parks. And boom, the sun goes down
and the habitat changes. It’s time for the leopards.”


Others have similar patterns throughout the world, Smith
said. “These animals are so adaptive. (They) take advantage of a new habitat
and … live right under our noses, without us even knowing about it.”


They range from Alaska (eagles) and Australia (kangaroos) to
Zambia (baboons), with wildlife adapting to civilized turf. Winter recently
took a classic photo of a cougar in the foreground of the “Hollywood” sign.


In temperament, Luck said, these creatures range from
something “as strange and sweet as sloths in Rio to 14-foot pythons that live
in downtown Bangok.” When you spot them, you know it’s an urban jungle.


n 
“Urban Jungle,” National Geographic Channel and
NatGeo Wild


n 
Debuts 8-11 p.m. Sunday, repeating 11 p.m. to 2
a.m.


n 
Also, same times Tuesday (Aug. 5), plus 9 a.m.
to noon Aug. 10