New Yorkers Confused, Frightened by, God's Creatures

WHAT IS THAT THING???? Photo: iStockphoto

Living in New York, there are only about five kinds of undomesticated animals we come into contact with on a regular basis: rats, cockroaches, pigeons, squirrels, and feral cats. If ever we encounter something else — outside of the city or maybe in the park if ever we have the time to go there — it's a deeply impressive experience. Personally, we grow reverent about nature if we even see a chipmunk. (Oh! And this one time we saw a cardinal. You know, the red bird?) But encounters with nature in the city can also be scary (like have you ever seen a possum? Ugh.) The Times yesterday ran a hilarious story we totally overlooked about summer park rangers, who are hired to help New Yorkers cope with these feelings, and in it, we also learned a good deal about the behavior of our own species.

Rangers field hundreds of calls from park visitors who are concerned about the behavior of wildlife, often when the animals in question are behaving naturally. They get reports from people who are unnerved by the sight of raccoons, or who mistakenly assume that pigeons sunning themselves have broken wings, or who grow vexed when an animal wanders onto a jogging path.

Often, people express concern the ducks in Central Park might drown. “One lady says she loses sleep because of it,” said one Central Park ranger. Another relayed a story in which a woman demanded he jump over the steep reservoir walls to save a sad old seagull that happened to be sitting there, looking sad. He was hesitant because it was dangerous, and “she threatened to call the major newspapers and the mayor.”
But our favorite is the tale one ranger told about a man who was decorating a small hedge with bright green glitter.
“He was tracing the veins, and had about 15 leaves done,” said Mr. Ratzloff, who is studying history and creative writing at Hunter College and spent last summer working in a warehouse. “He had a box of glitter and a thing of Elmer’s glue. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘I’m helping the trees.’ ”

And there you have it. Who needs animals when New York already contains so many exotic creatures?

A Summer Job That Promises Nature Walks for Pay [NYT]