San Francisco’s ideologically charged politics ensnares its wildlife

Liz and Lee Heidhues 7.14.2021

Photos:  Liz

San Francisco’s ideologically charged politics ensnares even its wildlife denizens in an endless Darwinian battle for survival among competing interests.

The automobile established dominance in the city by claiming almost exclusive access to public space.

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Raccoons on the move by Chain of Lakes in Golden Gate Park

The Motorists’ vitriolic and emotional refusal to adapt stymies progress to limit automobiles and exposes deeply ingrained turf wars over who has the rights to the City’s public spaces.

Red tail hawk atop a tree on car free JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park
Red tail hawk takes flight from tree on car free JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park

Despite gains by livability and climate advocates – such as The Great Walkway along the Pacific Ocean, Car Free JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park, and Slow Streets in strategic neighborhoods – automobiles dominate San Francisco. The intolerable congestion and noxious pollution from automobile overuse flies in the face of climate change and smart growth.

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Seagull competes with Mallard ducklings for food at Spreckels Lake

The street fight over sustainable urban living trickles down to the least political of San Francisco’s denizens – its urban wildlife.

Most climatologists agree that humans are increasing the rate of the Earth’s warming by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Burning fossil fuels, such as overdependence on cars to get around in San Francisco, is causing carbon dioxide (CO2) to build up in the earth’s atmosphere, where it causes warming by trapping the sun’s rays.

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Heron sneaks up on gopher

Climate warming is causing a sea level rise. The planet’s oceans rise in proportion to global changes in temperatures. As the Pacific Ocean rises around the peninsula of San Francisco, coastal habitats of urban wildlife will be wiped out.

The Western Monarch Butterfly is disappearing right in front of our eyes in San Francisco. Its population has dropped to a new record low in 2021. (Bay Area county’s western monarch butterfly population hits record low, only 200 counted. SF Gate, Amanda Bartlett, Jan. 2021)

Tiger swallowtail butterfly. Last seen in backyard – 2018

The Western Snowy Plover resides most of the year along Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Though Snowy Plovers currently do not breed in San Francisco due to a loss of habitat, they still are in the sliver of wilderness at Ocean Beach.

As sea level continues to rise, the Western Snowy Plover will run out of habitat to live in. The rising water will push Western Snowy Plovers towards the urban developments along Ocean Beach that do not contain sand dunes and, therefore, are unsuitable for the birds’ survival.



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Friendly horse at Bercut Equitation Field in Golden Gate Park

I invite car owners to exit their automobiles and transit the city as I do – a sustainable urban traveler – using your feet, a bicycle, public transit, or other non-car means, to get around.

You may be surprised when seeing our urban wildlife close-up and not from the silo of an automobile, which disconnects you from the planet and its wildlife.

Here is my own investigative photo montage of San Francisco’s urban wildlife.  

Hungry spider (left) wraps up Monarch butterfly for dinner
Canadian goose gives Liz the Eye
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What a mouthful!


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Bread and water
Urban squirrel gets tidbit from Liz
Rufus hummingbird on backyard perch
Raccoon creeps up on Liz
16 California scrub jay with prey 7.5.2021
Scrubjay aka “Scrubber” brings Lee a gift
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Crows on Blade Runner Wednesday – September 2020 at San Francisco Legion of Honor fountain
Downy Woodpecker pecks away
Downy woodpecker pecks away in Golden Gate Park
Monarch butterfly ensnared in spider’s web