Crumbling McMansions as “wildlife habitats”

Mix together a few recent stories about animals encountering people in the suburbs and you can reach an interesting conclusion: McMansions could become “wildlife habitats”.

Great news for folks who have watched the value of their exurban McMansions circling the drain over the past few years: These fringe habitations can be returned to nature to find new life as wildlife habitats. It’s basically the real estate version of composting.

Okay, so there’s not really an official effort to make subdivisions into sanctuaries, but apparently nobody told bears that. In Hopatcong, N.J., a cable TV repairman recently descended into 85-year-old Frank Annacone’s basement and found a 500-pound black bear slumbering there. The folks at Gothamist dubbed it the “Reverse Goldilocks Bear,” and in a true case of lopsided justice, it was quickly tranquilized and subjected to an “examination” (yikes) before being released back into the wild. (What did Goldilocks get, a good scare and a few hours of community service?)

It’s not the first time wild animals have done the “creative reuse” thing on the outer edges of civilization. BldgBlog has dredged up tales of bobcats lounging around foreclosed exurban mansions, bees that turned a California home into a honey factory, and a pack of coyotes that squatted in a burned-out house in Glendale, Calif.

These sort of animal/human interactions are no small issue in some suburbs. In this area, discussions about coyotes were hot not too long ago.

Trying to imagine McMansions as wildlife habitats is an interesting exercise. One far-fetched solution: some wealthy activist buys up a large McMansion neighborhood and turns it into a preserve. Perhaps people would even pay money to tour the odd preserve. This sounds like it could be a Hollywood thriller where some poor visitors end up trapped in this dystopian world. (Imagine Jurassic Park without dinosaurs and in a neighborhood of crumbling McMansions.) A second option: someone creates art that depicts crumbling McMansions returning to nature and full of animals.

If anyone has images or stories of full neighborhoods that have been “returned to nature,” I’d be interested in seeing them.

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