Texas Connects Us: Wildlife Adapts to Changing Landscape

In places where progress and prairie collide you will find Chris Jackson.

The software engineer spends most of his days working in one of the new office towers on the Plano-Richardson line.

But when he's not at work, he prefers tracking wildlife in the urban jungle many North Texans call home.

"Every time we go out, we turn up something new and interesting and unexpected," Jackson said. "That's the fascination with it."

Jackson, a self-described nature enthusiast and wildlife photographer, made his latest discovery during a regular workday meeting. He happened to glance outside his office window and spotted a coyote roaming the land below.

He watched the coyote pace around the property until a nearby truck drove off. Then, Jackson watched as the coyote moved along the tree line, heading straight for the President George Bush Turnpike.

"Once he gets to that freeway, [I thought] there's nowhere for him to go," said Jackson. "He'll be fully exposed and there's just concrete and cars."

Jackson thought it was possible the coyote was using a culvert to cross beneath the highway and reach the other side.

Being the amateur detective that he is, after work, Jackson retraced the coyote's path.

He left two trail cameras and waited a week before retrieving them.

His cameras caught coyotes, bobcats, opossums and raccoons crossing the freeway from below. Each one traveled 200 yards in a dark tunnel to a warehouse district on the other side.

Jackson said he's sure the discovery is nothing impressive to scientists who study these animals, but he found it fascinating.

"I think it's amazing how these animals figure out how to survive in this challenging environment. The city is re-configuring itself constantly, but that's just a testament to how intelligent and how adaptable these animals are," Jackson said.

He shared the discovery on his blog "DFW Urban Wildlife," where he and others track observations about critters thriving in an ever-changing landscape.

"Wild animals live their life as stories, just like all of us do and their stories are interesting," Jackson said.

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