- Chris Belcher
Urban Biologist, An Interview With Jessica Alderson
Updated: Jul 31, 2021
Texas is a state with a large urban population that increasingly engages with urban wildlife.
According to data from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department over 80% of Texans live in urban areas. This brings them into contact with urban wildlife. Urbanization led Parks and Wildlife to create the Urban Wildlife Program and assign urban biologist to the six largest urban areas.
Jessica Alderson is one of the urban biologists assigned to the San Antonio Metropolitan Area. She recently highlighted the role an urban biologist plays in connecting residents with nature, advising the cities in the San Antonio area, and assisting area landowners.
One issue with urban wildlife is supplemental feeding. This can be seen at the parks with people feeding ducks bread or in neighborhoods where deer are feed corn.
Alderson doesn’t recommend supplemental feeding.
“The majority of the food that people are feeding them is not nutritional. The supplemental feeding is not nutritional it also increases their concentration in smaller areas in an unnatural environment,” Alderson said, “it increases their nose-to-nose contact which increases the spread of disease.”
There is a lot of push back on discouraging feeding of ducks. If you go to areas with water features such as Heritage Duck Pond the first thing you notice is that most of them aren’t native. The second thing you’ll notice is that most of them are malnourished.
Alderson said, “you’ll see where they have angel wings, where the wings are bent out and they can’t fold them back in. You’ll see deformities around their beaks. You’ll see that they just don’t look healthy or they’re so big and fat that they’re having a hard time getting around.”
Alderson stated, “a lot of people are under the impression that we come out and remove nuisance wildlife.”
The urban biologists don’t remove nuisance animals but can give you materials to help you evict and exclude the animals.
San Antonio residents who are looking to learn more about urban wildlife have several resources available to them. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers educational opportunities through its programs and educational resources.
Residents can also volunteer with Texas Parks and Wildlife and help their local state park like San Antonio’s Government Canyon State Natural Area.
Enjoy San Antonio’s natural areas and urban wildlife. Just remember to do it appropriately.