Growing up in Southern California I’ve seen my fair share of urbanization. Despite popular culture touting the freedom and laid-back surfer culture of the region, a lot of development has been happening since the early twentieth century, making California the third-largest economy in the world. With a strong economy and exponential increase of residents, more space for houses is needed. The push for development has taken a huge toll on some of the diverse wildlife of the state.
From my perspective, I have seen huge changes happen in as little as 10 years. When I moved to San Clemente, one of the last outposts of the “small” surfer town ideal, the town was in the middle of some big changes. The locals were in uproar over a huge suburban development, in the dry grassland hills just far enough inland to remain undeveloped, until now. For decades the land had been largely untouched, with patches of protected wilderness here and there.
But now, the houses have been built. Over the ten years I have lived there I saw a huge amount of wildlife gradually disappear. Early mornings I’d see groups of does grazing on the hill next to the freeway. At sunset I might catch a glimpse of a coyote pack trekking across the street. In the night I would wake up to the sound of owls outside the window. The nature parks became hiking trails, and I saw animals like quail, bobcats, even a mountain lion in the area.
Over time, things changed. It was four years ago when I stopped seeing the deer. They might have traveled further inland, or been hunted, or both. The coyotes are still around, but I think there are fewer of them. The remaining ones are aggressive, and pursue pets wandering outdoors. I have heard their hunting wails and the cries of doomed dogs in the night. The raccoons and opossums hide in the gutters, emerging only in the quietest of nights to scour through garbage and run across the golf course. The red-tailed hawks and vultures seem to be doing fine, but it is a strange sight to see them circling above cul-de-sacs. I have not seen any bobcats or mountain lions since, and I suspect they have left for wilder lands.
Animals adapt. They must, to survive. The big question is, how far can we take it until coexistence is impossible? Will we develop and leave small nature reserves for them to live peacefully in? Or will we find innovative ways to coexist? Humans will keep progressing, and keep developing more, and animals must adapt or leave.