10 of the Most Wildlife-Friendly Cities

Every summer night, people gather to see the world's largest urban bat colony emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. Eric [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

When you think of cities, the first thing that comes to mind is hardly how wildlife-friendly it is. However, there are 10 urban centers around the country that have done an incredible job of sustaining wildlife amidst the hustle bustle.

And, according to a study released last week by the National Wildlife Federation, the winning cities were considered most notable based on three nature-friendly factors: The percentage of park land in each city, the actions that are in place to create wildlife habitats and the ways in which local schools have focused on teaching students about the environment.

Given these criteria, Austin, Texas, tops the list of cities that are most committed to wildlife. For starters, the city that is committed to its motto, Keep Austin Weird, boasts the Congress Avenue Bridge. The bridge is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony, with nearly 1.5 million bats dwelling in its nooks and crannies. Add to it the fact that this Texas capital has its own Wildlife Austin team that’s committed to protecting urban wildlife through community-wide collaboration and public education and we have a winner.

fish biologists count fish on the salmon river in portland, oregon

The second runner up: Portland, Oregon, aka The City of Roses. This Pacific Northwest capital features more than 8,200 acres of natural parkland and aims to provide nature areas within a half-mile of every home in the city. The park system is also considered ‘Salmon-Safe,’ which means that the parks are a protective, safe home for the Chinook salmon, currently listed on the National Wildlife Federation’s endangered species list.

The third winner: Atlanta. Known as Dogwood City, this Southern gem is known for its plentiful parks — it has more than 3,400 acres of recreational space and more than 800 Certified Wildlife Habitats. In addition, the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum, considered the most wide-reaching urban redevelopment project to date, is currently in progress and is a large-scale reforestation project focused on creek restoration, urban forest rehabilitation, neighborhood woodland rehabilitation and more.

Coming in at No. 4 is Baltimore, Maryland. The hub of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, this city teems with more than 5,700 acres of parklands, including Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park, the second-largest urban wilderness preserve in the U.S. Originally conceived by the Olmsted Brothers in 1904, the Leakin Park plan quickly expanded to include Gwynns Falls, a 24.9-acre stream, thereby protecting the entire space from future development. The park is home to all kinds of wildlife including deer, foxes, raccoons, and many birds, including ravens (right).

Gracing spot No. 5 is that all-important neighboring district, Washington, D.C. Turns out, 20 percent of our nation’s capital is made up of parkland as well as more than 500 species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. In addition, the local government of this 69-square-mile area is committed to its Wildlife Action Plan and its working Habitat Restoration Program that is committed to improving local river, stream and wetland habitats and protecting the ecological species that inhabit area waterways. Washington, D.C., has also dedicated space in each and every neighborhood for community gardens.

Read more about the remaining Top 10 wildlife-friendly cities:

6. Seattle

7. Albuquerque

8. Indianapolis

9. Charlotte

10. New York City