Nature in the City

We're used to mosquito bites here in the Midwest, but if you've found yourself intensely scratching a single, long-lasting bite for weeks, you've probably been bitten by the oak mite. The science behind these pesky critters that have made Kansas City their home, plus, another peek into nature with a writer who sowed his ideas in his gardens.


Many people dismiss Kansas as flyover country: squares and rectangles in a vast farmland quilt. A Lawrence author begs to differ; he spent years exploring the undiscovered wilderness in the state. He shares the last wild spots that still exist around Kansas ... and in the KC suburbs.


Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3

A hundred years ago, the North American Black Bear was thought to be completely wiped out of Missouri because of humans altering their habitat and over hunting for food and pelts.

But they've been making a comeback in Missouri. 

In 1958, something huge happened for black bears in our region. An Arkansas biologist made a deal with Minnesota and Canada, to trade wild turkeys for 254 black bears. Today, Arkansas has nearly 5,000 bears, and this has had an impact on Missouri.

Briana O'Higgins / KCUR 89.3

You may have noticed — Kansas City is home to a large (and growing) population of Canada geese. You may have also noticed that they never seem to leave, and that is probably because most of them don't.

Many have lost the evolutionary instinct to migrate. And why should they migrate? Kansas City has it all: open lakes and fountains, green grass that is rarely covered in thick snow, few predators.

For geese, Kansas City is Beverly Hills.

Humans and squirrels live side by side in urban and suburban neighborhoods. When humans observe and document these smaller animals in their yards and on their blocks, that isn't just a weird hobby; it informs science. 


Kelsey Smith

This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in August 2015.

Squirrels can be found just about anywhere in the Kansas City area, from the densest parts of the urban core, to rural prairie or forest settings.

They typically are a grayish color, brown or an orangey red, but recent black squirrels sightings in one Northland neighborhood have residents curious about the origins of their new dark furry neighbors.

It’s that time of year when we’ll start to see more and more mammals scurrying about around the city. Mammals like foxes, squirrels and, yes, maybe even some coyotes.

In the past 15 years, coyote populations in Midwestern urban and suburban areas have been increasing -- including in the Kansas City area.

“A  lot of folks don’t realize that we have them around the state, they don’t realize that they’re inside the cities. So when they see one they get all concerned,” says Andy Friesen, a wildlife damage biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City, Mo., is a place where people can get an up-close look at wild animals and plants that surround the area. It’s also one of the largest animal rehabilitation centers in Missouri.

Wild animals are brought in when they lose their habitat, are injured or abandoned. Humans are animal’s biggest threat, but the center is a place where humans are trying to help them out.

Ken Chan / Flickr / Creative Commons

Spring has arrived in the Midwest and there are many wonders of nature to explore in our area. On today's Central Standard, our Kansas City nature experts discuss spring peeper and western chorus frogs, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, plus some natural features that really shine in the spring.

Also, our experts suggest ideal locations in and around Kansas City to enjoy the new season's natural beauties.

Below are some great spots to explore nature and see wildlife in the spring:

Scott G (gipsonwonds) / Twitter

It's winter, and with shorter days, bone-chilling temperatures and snow and ice, we typically stay indoors.

Many forgo their daily walk in with nature. And most of us figure that there’s not much nature to see anyway.

But what are we missing?

As it turns out, we are missing a whole lot. It’s that time again for Nature in the City, a quarterly look at the plants and animals in and around the metro.

changr / Flickr - CC

It's starting to actually feel like fall. Daylight is slipping away sooner, mornings are brisk and nights are chilly. As the temperature starts to cool, leaves start to slowly change to those beautiful warm colors of yellow, orange and red and will soon fall to the ground. Critters scamper about preparing for who knows what kind of winter. From bird migrations, strange insects, frog populations and more, autumn is certainly making her place in Kansas City. 

AnnCam / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Summer is here, the humid days and the hot nights. The nesting robins and the walks through nature sanctuaries. The dead armadillos by the side of the road, yes, it’s all part of Nature in the City.

Larry Rizzo, Natural History Biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation in Kansas City, and Mark McKellar, formerly with the Nature Conservancy and the Audobon Society and now owner of the Backyard Bird Center in the Northland, join us to explore these issues and more on this summer edition of Nature in the City.

After a drawn out winter where we in Kansas City found ourselves hibernating through the snow and ice of March, spring has finally sprung. The trees are blooming and the landscape is finally peppered with color as plants and wildlife emerge from dormancy. On this Central Standard, we explore the nature around us as we transition into Spring. 

Bill Anderson / KCUR

It may be the dead of winter, but there is still plenty of nature to see in the Kansas City area.  Larry Rizzo, natural history biologist, and Joe Werner, biologist and urban ecologist will cover the best places to observe eagles and nesting Great Horned Owls, and explain what's going on pre-February with groundhogs. And we'll also explore how unseasonably warmer weather and a continued drought is affecting animal habits?

Nature In The City: Falling Into Autumn

Oct 2, 2012
flickr / Dr.RawheaD

You might've noticed a few tell tale signs of Autumn: the beginnings of fall foliage in the trees, flocks of birds migrating overhead... But one has to wonder, how did all that dry heat this summer affect our natural world as we fall into the Fall season? And how is the lingering drought impacting local wildlife?

On this Wednesday's Central Standard, we take an early Autumn look at Nature in the City with Larry Rizzo, natural history biologist, and Joe Werner, biologist and urban ecologist.

Nature In The City: Drought Edition

Jul 31, 2012
Mickl Pickl / Flickr

This summer's drought is affecting everyone: from farmers to daily commuters to animals. Especially animals.

Nature in the City: Summer Birds, Hiking

Jun 6, 2012
Len Blumin / Flickr

In Kansas City, we humans have adapted to our hot summer days with central air, trips to the movies and Jones Pool... but how do wild animals do it?

Nature in the City: Songbirds, Spring Peepers & Wildflowers

Mar 22, 2012
KeyStroke / Flickr

On this Thursday's Central Standard, we take a look at Nature in the City in it's most colorful season.

Nature In The City: Woodcocks & Chorus Frogs

Feb 16, 2012

On this Thursday's Central Standard, a closer look at Nature in the City, from the courtship displays of Woodcocks (a.k.a. Timberdoodles) to the sounds of Western Chorus Frogs.