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.

A bear asks for an apology for McMansions

A New Jersey bear explains his point of view which includes asking for an apology about the McMansions that have been built:

You see, there are an awful lot of us these days – thousands when their used to be a handful. Twenty years ago I was something special, a character out of a storybook. I was mean or cuddly, depending on your personality. Today I am a nuisance, and I completely understand this. There’s not a whole lot of room anymore, thanks to our large and growing population combined with your government’s collusion with developers over the past few decades. As I write this they are taking down more land near me for what you folks call “affordable housing,” but of course it’s just a front for a massive shopping complex. You folks are pretty gullible, if you don’t mind me saying.

Occasionally, we get the urban sophisticate coming our way and he/she treats me like the old days. They look at me with wonder and awe, and I’m guessing it’s because they don’t have much wildlife around the outskirts of Trenton, Newark, or Hoboken. Usually the people are on their way to the Mount Airy Lodge or some other oasis and I give them what they want – an authentic outdoor experience (even if that experience is realized along a highway). Anyway, those same city dwellers are trying to protect me now and I appreciate it. I do. I don’t want to be hunted just as the woodchuck doesn’t want to fall under my claws. But it’s not reality. We are a safety hazard to you (and you to us), and while it’s not our fault, there are too many of us and too many of you. Someone has to be minimized. Both of us can’t pull up fake wicker chairs on a back deck and debate the healthcare bill. It is the natural order of things. A cat is territorial and will fight off any other cat that invades that space (and kill any mouse), so too are humans. I am only thankful that you are sensitive enough to minimize and not eradicate.

So there it is. I am sorry for the destruction around town and the occasional fright.   I am sorry for the debate we spawn between rural residents that have to deal with us on a constant basis and city residents that don’t. And I hope one day you apologize to us for taking so much of the woodland for your McMansions and strip malls. It made things difficult, to say the least.

I assume there is a (good?) reason for this piece. Regardless, it illustrates the sprawl argument that is often made about McMansions. Even more so than the particular features of McMansion homes, McMansion neighborhoods, or people who buy McMansions, a number of people consider McMansions to be the primary exemplar of suburban sprawl that brings highways, strip malls, and single-family homes. This doesn’t just ruin the landscape for humans but has other ecological consequences including flooding issues, a loss of open space, and a negative effect on animal habitats.

And perhaps sometimes you just need to hear it from a bear.