SOME ANIMALS OF THE METRO AREA
Those of us who live in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area are fortunate to live in an
extremely biologically diverse area. The same conditions that make this such a desirable place
for people to live also makes this an excellent place for animals. Although humans have cut
down most of the woodland, we created hedges, fields, ponds and lakes, and a variety of
habitat. Deer have become so common they are often a nuisance, eating garden and
ornamental plants and running into traffic. Our wildlife includes many of the native creatures
that were here before Europeans landed and many that have been brought here from other
parts of the world. Some of the animals that were once eliminated from the area have also
returned recently. The Black Bear was reintroduced to Western Maryland after being hunted to
extinction. These bear have been seen in our area after wandering east from the mountains.
Wild Turkey have been reintroduced in much of Maryland and have been quite successful in
some areas. The animals shown on this website are just a small sample of the wildlife you might
see in the natural areas and lawns and gardens of the Metro area.
Some of the factors that make the Metro area an excellent place for wildlife are:
- Climate - In the mid-Atlantic we tend to have relatively mild winters and
summers. Our coastal location and the Chesapeake Bay help to moderate temperatures
year round. In the Metro area we see many of the plants and animals normally associated
with the southern states and many usually associated with the northern states. The transition
between southern and northern ecosystems is quite pronounced as we cross the Metro area,
traversing climate zones with corresponding plant and animal life. Southeast of Washington DC,
the sandy coastal plain has a little bit warmer weather than the rolling piedmont of Carroll
County. The Appalachian Mountains of Frederick County and westward has an even colder
climate, and a more "northern" flora and fauna.
- Variety of Habitat - Our terrain ranges from the mountains in the west, to the rolling hills of
the piedmont, to the flat sandy coastal plain. Each region has its own characteristic
ecosystems. We also have several smaller local ecosystems that are very unique.
Soldier's Delight Natural Environmental Area, the Bare Hills area of Lake Roland, and
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp are examples of areas that are unique in geology and/or in biology.
We have spectacular birdwatching year round, and being on the Atlantic Flyway for migratory
birds, even more amazing birdwatching in fall and winter. Our bird life includes some
introduced species that have become extremely successful. The House Sparrow is almost
everywhere, often nesting under the eves of houses, this bird and the Starling, also brought to
this country by man, are seen pecking for scraps, bugs and seeds on lawns, in wooded areas
and even among the concrete and asphalt of the inner city. We also have an incredible variety
of native bird species. In my own backyard in the Interstate 95 corridor between Baltimore and
Washington DC I have seen Red-shouldered Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Ruby-Throated
Hummingbird, Chimney Swift, Goldfinch, Chipping Sparrow, Robin, Mockingbird, Catbird, House
Wren, Carolina Wren, Mourning Dove, and Common Grackle, to name just a few.
Mammals in our area include the White-tailed Deer, Grey Squirrel, and Eastern Chipmunk. You
are likely to see these three mammals on a hike in many of the natural areas here. In my
suburban backyard I have also seen Red Fox, Eastern Cottontail Rabbits, and Opossum. There
are a large number of other mammals, some extremely common, that are much more secretive.
White-footed Mice, Meadow Voles, Eastern Mole, Red Bat, Little Brown Bat, Raccoon,
Short-tailed Shrew, and Flying Squirrel are some other mammals you might see with a little
patience. Since most mammals are nocturnal and very secretive, you are not likely to see most
of these on a casual hike.
We also have numerous Reptiles and Amphibians. On a hike here you might see Green Frog,
Pickerel Frog, Grey Tree Frog, Red-backed Salamander, Spotted Salamander, Garter Snake,
Black Rat Snake, Northern Water Snake, Milk Snake, Painted Turtle, Eastern Box Turtle,
Snapping Turtle, Five-lined Skink, or Fence Swift, to name a few. We have only one poisonous
snake in most of our area, the Northern Copperhead. In Western Maryland two poisonous
snakes are found, the other being the Timber Rattlesnake.
We have maybe 8 million people in the metropolitan area, and growing. In spite of the massive
human population we have managed to maintain a lot of the natural beauty. Maintaining the
natural beauty for generations to come will require an effort on all our parts. The effort to
maintain a healthy environment for wildlife rewards us not only with the opportunity to enjoy
the wildlife, but also with a healthier environment for ourselves and for the world. Let's start
with some small things we can all do to help:
- Is there any need to drive a gas guzzling car? Lets face it, a gas guzzling car is needless
gluttony and we all pay the price in increased smog, oil wells, oil refineries producing toxic
emissions, oil spills, and global warming. Car exhaust has also been linked to lung cancer and
asthma. Driving a fuel efficient car, consolidating trips, walking when possible instead of
driving, minimizes our impact.
- Allow some wildlife habitat in your yard. Maintaining our yards might be a necessity for
keeping our homes from being engulfed by plants or damaged by root systems, for health
reasons, etc. We can provide habitat for native plants and wildlife while maintaining a healthy
and aesthetically pleasing environment in even a small urban yard. This will not only help
wildlife, but also may help reduce carbon dioxide and other pollutants. You might take a look at
the gardening section for some ideas.
- Reduce the use of chemicals in your home. Insecticides, herbicides, and artificial
fertilizers should be avoided. These synthetic chemicals are much more dangerous than
most people realize, resulting in higher cancer rates, neurological disorders, estrogenic
effects and autoimmune disease. There are safer alternatives that will help preserve our water
supplies and our wildlife. Having a lawn chemical company spray synthetic fertilizer, herbicide,
and pesticide mixes on your lawn is unnecessary and contaminates the environment.
Maintaining a chemical free lawn is best for you, your pets, your human neighbors, and your
- Conserve energy. Turn off the lights when you aren't using them, turn down the thermostat in
winter, open windows rather than turn on the A/C in the summer. Dry your clothes on a clothes
line instead of a dryer. I think we all can think of many ways to reduce our energy use. Saving
energy is good for the world and good for your wallet.
- Last, but not least, speak out. The more we talk about it, the more this becomes a part of
people's everyday lives.
If you live in an apartment complex you can make suggestions to management about
leaving some habitat for wildlife or birds (everyone likes birds). Voice your concerns
about pesticide use or about lawn chemicals if they are used. Make suggestions about
saving energy (you might point out the money savings) if you see the opportunity. At
work you can voice concerns and make suggestions when the opportunity arises. Bring
these issues up with your neighbors and your friends.
Be politically active. Vote green. Let your government representatives know your
Support conservation organizations. Many of the local, national, and international
conservation groups have letter writing or e-mail campaigns for various causes. Participating in
these makes a difference. You can contribute by volunteering time, donating money, or joining
the e-mail campaigns of organizations like some of the ones listed below. Financial support
through membership or donations to these organizations also helps with conservation and
lobbying efforts. Becoming a member of organizations who lobby for environmental concerns
increases your ability to bring about change. Politicians and businesses are more likely to
respond to petitions from organizations with a large membership.
Some of my favorite conservation organizations are:
The Nature Conservancy
Center for Biological Diversity
Union of Concerned Scientists
Organic Consumers Association
The pictures you see on these pages are all taken by me. You can use these pictures freely for
classrooms, school project and reports or other non-commercial uses.