Things to Do Urban wildlife on display at NYC Parks events, whale-watching tours A whale is spotted off Coney Island on Aug. 16, 2017, from an American Princess Cruises whale-watching excursion. Photo Credit: Gotham Whale / Artie Raslich By Lisa L. Colangelo firstname.lastname@example.org Updated August 18, 2017 9:23 AM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email This concrete jungle has no shortage of wildlife. Whether it’s red-tailed hawks nesting on fire escapes, coyotes making their dens in Bronx parks or tiny chipmunks racing through Prospect Park — New York City has a surprisingly diverse population of urban wildlife. Wildlife experts encourage city dwellers to enjoy their furry and winged neighbors but urge them to keep their distance. “For many people, viewing wildlife is a thrilling, heart-pumping experience,” said Sarah Aucoin, chief of education and wildlife for the city Parks Department. “People will travel to Yellowstone National Park and upstate New York, but you can also have that experience right here.” Sightsee with a Ranger The Urban Park Rangers host a variety of walks, talks and programs across the city to show the five boroughs are home to animals other than pigeons and squirrels. The city even started a public awareness campaign to remind people it’s not unusual to see a raccoon, deer or other critters in the city. And it recently unveiled a NYC Wildlife Calendar on its website that maps out the best places to view wildlife for each month. “The wildlife population and human observation of wildlife has been on the rise because our parks are so healthy and populations are thriving,” Aucoin said. On Saturday, the Urban Park Rangers are hosting a Nocturnal Wildlife Hike at Blue Heron Park in Staten Island from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. “When you hike through Blue Heron Park, it’s hard to remember you are in New York City,” Aucoin said. “A night hike there — where we can see bats, opossums and deer — is sure to thrill.” Nature lovers will have a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with birds of prey such as hawks and owls during the city’s Raptor Fest celebration on Sept. 16 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Cathy and Bobby Horvath, from Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, will bring some of the animals they have helped rescue. Jamaica Bay bounty The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, spans through parts of Queens and Brooklyn and into New Jersey. It is a hotspot for bird watchers with more than 300 different species of birds spotted there over the years, including ospreys, yellow-crowned night herons and American redstarts. Visitors might also run into marine life like turtles. The National Park Service offers tours, hikes and boat trips. Whale of a time And for something completely different, head out on a boat and look for whales, dolphins and other denizens of the sea. Gotham Whale has partnered with American Princess Cruises to run whale watching excursions out of Riis Landing in Rockaway. While some whales have famously been seen in New York Harbor in recent years, your best chance of seeing one is out in the ocean. “Whales are coming to New York and they are performing for us — showing off with lunge feeding and breaches,” said Paul Sieswerda, founder of Gotham Whale. “So many people are seeing whales for the first time and the excitement is phenomenal.” Wildlife rules Wherever you venture to see wildlife, Aucoin advised people to follow a few rules: “When you are observing wildlife in the field, keep a respectful distance and never ever feed a wild animal,” she said. “It’s not good for the animal and could be a risk for the person.” By Lisa L. Colangelo email@example.com Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.