July 8, 2011
It never fails. Every year we have the same problem with dumpster divers. No it's not the hipster artist looking for obscure objects for his next sculpture, and it isn't the local freegan looking for her next luncheon. It's actually Western Gulls, Larus occidentalis. Here's an image I captured on my way back from lunch on my smartphone.
It follows the same routine every weekday. Soon after the field trippers have exited the building they descend to the lawns and eat their lunches. About this time the gulls appear in a massive flock, like a reenactment of Hitchcock's, The Birds. The gulls around here are not as aggressive as others I've seen on my high school campus in the Inland Empire, or those at Seaworld that literally snatch burgers out of patrons' hands! Instead the gulls of Exposition Park wait for our school children to "finish" their packed lunches and put them in the trash. Soon after the gulls go to work on the overflowing trash cans. Garbage is strewn left, right, and center as the gulls are looking for a tasty morsel. All those half eaten sandwiches, leftover lunchables, and wayward McDonald's French fries, are consumed and the packaging is left behind as an unsightly reminder of the carnage.
The Western gull’s willingness to consider our trash its treasure illustrates a common trait of urban animals. Creatures who are able to thrive once their native habitats have been altered by humans do so in large part because they are adaptable. While bears and mountain lions have been pushed to the fringes of the city, animals that make the most of what is around them become successful urbanites. If you’re willing to eat trash—a plentiful commodity in urban settings—you’ve got a lot more options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Have you seen any wildlife dumpster divers in your neighborhood?