New York is now ‘the greenest big city on earth,’ one naturalist said. Some creatures have noticed, and are staying for a while.

There have been bats and endangered butterflies, wild and rare native bees; a coyote in Central Park; beavers, salamanders and leopard frogs in Staten Island; a bobcatmink and several foxes in the Bronx, along with endangered alewife herring and American eels traversing fish ladders in the Bronx River while hungry osprey and egrets lurk nearby; large wild oysters and tiny sea horses at piers along the Hudson River; baby damselflies, the world’s most endangered sea turtles and a baby seal in Queens; and exotic insects not seen in decades in Brooklyn, the New York Times reports.

New York City is experiencing a surprising return of native wildlife, in numbers and diversity remarkable even to local ecologists and parks officials. “You are seeing miraculous occurrences of wildlife right in the middle of the city,” said former parks commissioner Adrian Benepe.

It would be easy to surmise that nature blossomed and the creatures came out during New York City’s lockdown last year. But wildlife needs habitat, and the animals’ return, according to Kathryn Heintz, the executive director of the NYC Audubon Society, is because of the city’s 40-year effort to expand and clean up its parks, rivers, forests and wetlands. This has included planting more trees, wildflowers and grasses that are native to the area, banning pesticides in parks and spending billions on converting former landfills and industrial wastelands into nature sanctuaries.

New York is now “the greenest big city on earth,” Ms. Heintz said.

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