Yesterday one more wild fox was caught on camera roaming on the city street and posted on the social media, dividing citizens between those who like it and those who were afraid of it. We asked an animal shelter director and a main veterinarian in the shelter to give us information about wild animals that are present in our city in recent years, why they are coming and how citizens should behave to remain safe.
More wild animals are present in other cities around the world, such as mountain lions in Los Angeles, wild boars in Berlin, peregrine falcons in New York and London, Sika deer in Japan, leopards in Mumbai or keas in cities of New Zealand. As explained by foreign experts, some of these animals are coming in urban areas because they can easily found food, such as opportunists that eat garbage. In other situations, cities expanded in areas where this animals always lived, leaving animals with no choice to go somewhere else.
While in some countries wild animals are considered as pests and nuisance, in other countries they are seen as enrichment for city life or attraction for tourists. In that matter, the city of Zagreb is no exception. While some citizens are feeding wild animals, especially birds, others are complaining because they consider wild animals as dangerous and filthy.
“This year we caught approximately the same number of wild animals as in last five years”, said Sandra Kralj, the director of the main city shelter. “In 2018 our catchers gathered by now approximately 610 birds, 5 reptiles and 104 other wild animals.”
Most of the animals they collect from streets and public parks, but also sometimes they get them from private yards, gardens or houses. They are especially quick and thorough when they need to take animals from school playgrounds and kindergartens because it could be dangerous for animals to stay there.
Bigger wild animals, such as deer, are mostly found at the edge of city, near the forest on the north. On the other hand, small animals, such as all kind of songbirds, foxes and ferrets, are sometimes found even in the city center.
“Every scared or injured animal can be dangerous because from an animal perspective they have to fight for their life,” said Ms. Kralj. Therefore, the shelter have specially trained catchers and it is equipped for all kind of animals, including dangerous one such as poisoned snakes.
Ms. Kralj stressed out that there is no need to call the shelter if an animal is healthy and it is not presenting threat for people. For example, in spring many people are calling the shelter when they see young birds that are learning to fly, but this animals need to practice and they do not need to be taken into the shelter.
In Zagreb wild animals that are not injured, are returned in the nature. The shelter stuff choose suitable place for animal release in cooperation with local NGOs and hunting alliance.
Injured and sick animals are brought in animal hospital that is run by Miroslava Katic, DVM. She is treating all kind of wild animals, not only from the city. Common “city patients” in her hospital are birds with broken wings, and sometimes with broken legs, as well as mammals with head and leg traumas or substantial body injuries. Most of injuries are caused by traffic, sometimes by a mowing machine, pet dogs or cats and by fences if an animal tried to go through. However, it is quite disturbing that fact that some animals seems to be deliberately hurt by people.
The main goal is to give this wild animals chance to heal their wounds and to return in nature. Therefore, after the treatment and recovery in animal hospital, 60 to 75% of animals can go back in nature.
“We are 99% sure that wild animals seen in the city have no rabies,” said the vet Katic. “In our country foxes are orally vaccinated against rabies since 2011, and the last rabid fox was shoot in 2014. Similar situation is in our neighboring countries. Still, we have to be aware that bats also can spread rabies, so it is always wise to stay cautious.”
With no fear of rabies citizens should be encouraged to help animals in need. All about safety around wild animals and how to assist in the case of emergency citizens can read at the animal hospital web site.
Little by little, new city dwellers are founding their place in our neighborhood. While some of them are always welcomed, others bring fear or disgusted in humans. It is the matter of tolerance, culture and ecological consciousness how this animals are going to be treated. Hopefully the city of Zagreb will show some tolerance and embrace wild animals as enrichment for dull city life.