is a surprising amount of life in what one might imagine would be a fairly
sterile environment. In spite of an almost complete absence of sunlight
in most places and the fact that the flora is limited to whatever can cling
to sheer concrete surfaces, to date we have seen the following:
- Actually, these have been few and far between, but we see loads of tracks
in many of the tunnels we explore. Like most animals, raccoons tend
to keep their distance, however. The closest encounter was finding
some baby raccoons that you can see here.
- I lost count over the course of the summer, but we have seen perhaps
a dozen turtles so far. Often we find them in the most unlikely places,
including up to a mile upstream from the outfall. I don't know why
they bother to make the trip, but apparently they find enough to eat.
We have even run across turtles in the same spot on subsequent visits to
at least two tunnels (Three-Way
- So far we have been lucky; both of the snakes we have seen were very
small (thinner than a pencil) and were non-poisonous. However, I
did almost run right over a water moccasin on my bike outside of Three-Way
Tunnel on my last visit.
- Yes, seriously! In several tunnels we visited, swallows had built
nests along the walls near the entrances and would fly out of the opening
as we approached.
- I don't see them all that often, but maybe the numbers just seem low
after having grown up in Louisiana. Still, we do run across "crawdads"
every once in a while, though never enough to make a meal.
- I'm not much of an angler, so I can't say just what all species we have
seen, but we have run across everything from minnows to large catfish as
well as (possibly) a gar.
- I have only found tadpoles in a few tunnels, typically in ones with standing
- Strangely enough, we have not seen terribly many frogs while draining.
This may be a reflection of the global reduction of numbers, but what do
- We see entirely too many of these guys to please Dani, but for some reason
they tend to be found in greater numbers in "grungy" tunnels where there
is a lot of debris.
- I have never been able to identify them, but there are lots and lots
of tracks deep in many tunnels where we would not expect to find any wildlife.
Have a look at some of these in pics on the site. Are they from coons,
opossum, turtles, or what?
- Believe it or not, in spite of your Hollywood conception of "sewers"
to the contrary, we have only run across a very, very few rodents so far
(see the appropriately-named "Rat Race,"
for example). This is likely because they clear out when they hear
us traipsing through in heavy rubber boots. Too bad, because they're
actually very cute!
- For those who have never heard of them, these are large aquatic rodents.
I first thought these were beaver at the so-called Beaver
Tunnel (hence the name), but when we re-visited the area sometime later,
we were able to get a better look at them before they darted away under
the water. We have never run across them in a tunnel, only near the
outfall to this tunnel.
- No, I'm kidding, but I am always on the look-out whenever the water is
deep enough to hide one of these beasts.
- Obviously, most of the organic matter we see is what has washed into
the tunnels rather than what is growing there. However, there are
occasional patches where we find that seedlings have sprouted (due the
to fact that this portion of their life cycle does not require sunlight)
and wither soon after.
find loads of dead animals. At first I thought this was because there
was something killing them, but it's more that the last step in the process
has been circumvented.
I grew up in the
woods and never used to see many dead animals except for when they were
freshly killed (e.g., roadkill or immediately following a severe freeze).
However, in those cases the carcass is left right in the middle of nature,
so it is reclaimed by organisms that will decompose it. It is available
to insects and fish and snakes or whatever can make use of it. For
example, during a drought one year, we lost all the fish in our pond.
The oxygen levels grew too low as the water volume was reduced, and all
at once the whole pond literally went belly up. It smelled like a
seafood store pretty quickly, but there were snakes (water moccasins, specifically)
that were munching on the fish already. There were three of them
in the pond making no secret of their presence. Typically we rarely
saw even one, and that was only if one of our dogs stirred it out.
The elements were present to remove the dead right away.
By contrast, urban
areas are isolated. The bodies of animals that have died (sometimes
as a direct result of being in an urban area) are sequestered away from
the rest of any recognizable ecosystem, so the aforementioned decomposers
do not have access to them. As a result, it isn't uncommon to run
across dessicated carcasses inside warehouses or in parking lots that almost
certainly would have been discovered otherwise by scavengers and the like.
I don't know that
there's a solution to this problem or if indeed it is a problem of any
magnitude worth remarking on, but it is an interesting phenomenon.
|I hope you enjoyed
the above and/or got some use out of it. If you have anything to
add, feel free to write me.