Forest People of Nyack

Dated: 12/09/2012

Views: 3852

By 1850 the vast majority of trees in New York State had been cut down. The number of rock walls throughout Rockland is a testament to the lack of wood to build fences. After the Civil War, people in mass migrated to urban and suburban areas, abandoning vast areas of farm land that was quickly repopulated by native plants and trees. At the same time, towns sprung up all through this recaptured wilderness. Today, the eastern hardwood forest is one of the fastest growing forests of the 23 recognized forests on this globe. With this tremendous forest growth has come an influx of wild animals that find this habitat perfect to their survival.

In 1970 there were 229,000 people living in Rockland, today that number has increased to 311,000. It would seem that the increasing suburban sprawl would have been to the detriment of wildlife populations. The opposite effect has been seen throughout Rockland with many species flourishing to the point of overpopulation. Many people think this is because we are “squeezing” them out, but the opposite is true. We are living in a forest and it is the perfect wildlife environment. This increase comes with a cost, as municipalities have to deal with wildlife related issues. Car collisions increase with sometimes fatal results not only to the animal, but also to the driver of the car. Millions of dollars in landscape money is eaten by semi-wild animals. Ball fields, golf courses, and water supplies are fouled by feces. Lyme disease is epidemic.

The most glaring increase would be the number of Canada Geese grazing on every park, ball field, and golf course in our county. This is due to milder winters combined with favorable food sources. Numerous attempts at population control have met with limited or no success in slowing the growth of local flocks.

The white tail deer is another animal that has experienced a population explosion in the past 30 years. Favorable food sources, and increase in “fringe” habitat has worked to the deer’s advantage. The number one predator of deer in Rockland is your family car, though as we’ll see, a new carnivore is on the rise.

Two new comers to the Rockland scene are the Eastern Wild turkey and the coyote. Both have expended into the county in the past 30 years. Favorable food and relative safety attract turkeys while the coyote follows prey. Mice and rodents are the mainstay of a coyote diet, but turkeys, deer fawns, and car collision injured deer also make up a large portion of their food. As coyote populations continue to increase, small dogs and cats are increasingly at risk if allowed to roam freely.

Another increasingly frequent visitor over the past 30 years is the black bear. A small population exists in Harriman state park and a large number of bears live in Orange County. Each spring young males head south to Rockland trying to establish a new territory of their own. This has often been met with disastrous results for the bear. There is no known population in southern Rockland at this time but it wouldn’t surprise me if this adaptable animal found a way to co-exist with the populations densities found down here.

All is not rosy, as some animals have declined in the same time frame. Sadly, land turtles (box and wood) have suffered due the increase in car traffic. There is still a small population of box turtles, but I doubt any wood turtles remain in Rockland. The red fox population has fallen dramatically, possibly due to coyote predation, but more likely they just aren’t as adaptable to suburban living. Another important animal that has faced a state wide die-off are bats. These voracious eaters of insects have suffered a fungus that has killed millions in the past few years. Biologists are working on the problem but no cause or cure has become clear yet.

There a many more changes to the fauna and flora of Rockland over the past 30 years but these are just a sample of some I find most interesting.

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Paul Bambara

My love of the real estate business began when I first started investing in residential and commercial properties in 1982. I found that my life-long residency of Rockland County, my eight years on the....

1 comments in this topic

  • Posted by Mary Lovera
    Very informative posting. You seem to really know your stuff!

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