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Nine questions about nature in cities

A green and yellow garter snake slithers across a dirt road.
Jane Lindholm
Vermont Public

Do bears ever live in cities? Why do so many crows gather together on winter nights? How many raccoons are there in cities? What’s the deal with so many maple trees in Vermont? Why are flowers different colors? How are snakes born with venom? Why do some foxes turn white in the winter and others don’t? Where is a good place to observe wildlife? How do urban wild places support wildlife in cities? Naturalist Teage O’Connor answers questions from Burlington classrooms in this special live episode of But Why.

Download our learning guide: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript | Scavenger Hunt

  • Bears are sometimes spotted in cities, but cities don’t provide the best habitat for bears so they’re usually just passing through. Sometimes bears come into cities and suburbs to take advantage of easy access to food. (So it’s important not to leave tempting bird feeders and trash out if you live near bears.)
  • One mile of woods might support 15-50 raccoons, but a single square mile in a city could contain up to 1,000 raccoons! They choose to live in cities because they are omnivorous scavengers, meaning they can eat almost anything, including garbage, and humans leave a lot of food around that raccoons are happy to gobble up, especially in winter months when food sources out in the woods would be much more scarce.
  • Crows gather in large roosts for protection. One crow in a group of 10,000 is much less likely to be preyed upon by a hungry owl than a single crow living alone. The crows gathering in very large groups in the wintertime are usually juveniles. These huge wintertime gatherings, called roosts, are actually getting bigger. In recent decades the numbers of individual groups has grown from hundreds or a few thousand to as many as 200,000 crows at a winter roost in Canada! 

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Get outside and observe something! We have a nature scavenger hunt to help encourage you to scope out your neighborhood for wildlife you might not know you have. Try to find a bird, something furry, and a bug. Take pictures and then try to identify them. Let us know how it turns out! Send an email to or tag us on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or Facebook.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
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