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Brussels gone wild: Animals sneak into quieter streets and squares

16:47 31/03/2020

A pheasant was caught on camera this weekend in Saint-Gilles, not exactly a normal sight for the densely populated municipality in Brussels. The photo turned up on the I Love Saint-Gilles Facebook group and prompted a few more members to submit their own photos and observances of animals not normally seen there.

A distinctive Eurasian woodcock, normally at home in surrounding forests, had been spotted somewhere in the city, for instance, and a fox paused to pose for a picture on Place Albert in Forest. While foxes are often seen in the capital, they certainly don’t take to a spot as busy as that.

And Brussels isn’t the only large city where wild animals are venturing further in than usual. Wild boars have been seen in Barcelona, and a cougar showed up in Chilean capital Santiago.

Fox in Forest

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” biologist Olivier Beck of Bruxelles Environnement told Bruzz. “Nature is very resilient. If people take a step back, animals – and particularly the most opportunistic of them, like foxes and stone martens – will take a step forward. Generally these are animals that tend to live close to humans, in any case. The pheasant is a bit of a mystery, though. I wonder if it hadn’t escaped from somewhere.”

But even animals in woodlands are more visible than they normally are, noted Beck, who took part in a deer count in the Sonian Forest last week. “There were noticeably fewer joggers than usual. Coincidence or not, I counted 12 deer, which is a lot.”

He’s also hearing people remark about how there seem to be more birds in urban areas. “They’re always there, but we can just hear them better,” he explains. “There’s no traffic noise to drown them out, and also when we go out these days, we’re usually alone. Then you notice nature a lot more.”

Photos, from top: drivers wait patiently for a pheasant to cross Rue de la Victoire ©Barbara Borguet/Facebook, a fox appears pretty relaxed near Forest’s busy Avenue Albert ©Alexandrina Loretani/Facebook

Written by Lisa Bradshaw