An adaptable nature

The next time you’re driving keep an eye on the light poles looming over the Interstate. You might notice a red-tailed hawk keeping his vigil. The first time I remember seeing this was in Austin about 10 years ago, although doubtless they have been doing it longer and I just never noticed.

On one winter drive out to my uncle’s house in Southlake (an exurb of Dallas and Fort Worth), I counted five hawks perched on light poles between the opposing flow of traffic in a span of about 5 miles. My guess is these poles make a great vantage point for hunting the rats and mice that live in the close-cropped grass perimeter of our highway system.

In the short history of human civilization, many animals have learned to adapt to our ways. Rats and mice being obvious examples, but also animals we might forget like raccoons, pigeons, coyotes, and hawks. You could even count dogs and cats as animals that have adapted to us. The main requirements for living closely with humans seem to be that you must either be able to live without attracting notice (nocturnal lifestyle) or you must be able to keep from being captured (flight). In the case of cats and dogs, they have adapted by engaging our sympathies and our innate sociability. When we look at a cat or dog, there is a moment of recognition. Maybe this is due to their forward-facing stereoscopic eyes. Or, maybe it is something deeper.

As we encroach further on the natural world, animals will have to get better at adapting to a human-dominated environment or they will have to move further and further out of reach.

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  1. I like your new look.

  2. […] the past I have speculated on other animals that have adapted to the human environment. Here in the Hill Country north of San Antonio, deer should be included in that group. In the […]