Before the End, a lot of North American wildlife and wilderness was beaten nearly to death. To nature, though, the End was really a new beginning. Just 15 years A.E. the rebound is already well underway. Compare this with Chernobyl after 15 years and 33 years.
* Bears in the former United States have just begun to recover and spread. Most had been pushed into a few mountain strongholds, so they are tending to expand along mountain ranges. More noticeably, the healthier bear populations from former Canada have headed south in search of new territory. They are too big to survive the Grunge easily, but none of them lived where it hit and they are uninterested in ruined cities. As keystone species, they will have a big impact wherever they settle.
* Beavers took a good ten years before they started exploring the recently emptied lands, because they're fussy about water quality. They emerged from wilderness reserves to find water escaping from its former confines and abandoned fields bristling with tender saplings. In the last five years they have eagerly built dams and created ponds in the areas bordering their old reserves, greatly increasing niches available to other wildlife. As a keystone species and ecosystem engineers, their expansion will help many other animals recover from the previous human pressure.
* Buffalo have spread over the plains, still relatively modest in numbers but eagerly returning to their long-range roaming. It took them less than a year to spill out of Yellowstone and the other reserves. They are too big to survive the Grunge easily, but none of them lived where it hit and they are uninterested in ruined cities. As a keystone species, they will have a big impact wherever they go.
* Caribou had pretty good numbers, and are booming back toward their former throngs. They benefit from inactivity along roads that used to cut through their migration routes, and from reduced pressure as humans no longer tear up the wilderness. As a keystone species, they will have a big impact wherever they go.
* Coyotes are ubiquitous, although the smaller and shyer wild types often don't compete well against the bigger, bolder, packs of hybrids. The latter go by many names including coydog, coywolf, and among scientists "canis soup." They are often a mix of coyote, wolf, and dog but the dominant strain varies from place to place. The smaller they are, though, the more resistant to the Grunge and the less food they need, so the wild-type coyotes do better in ruined cities and deserts. Coyotes are among the few species whose range actually expanded as humans wiped out their main competitors, the wolves.
* Deer had some challenges Before but have rebounded After within just a few years, rapidly spreading through field and forest to reclaim much of their former territory already. They browse enthusiastically on all the new brush growing in abandoned areas. Only the suburban populations took some collateral damage from the Grunge, as the largest deer were susceptible to it.
* Elk have been slower to recover than the smaller white-tailed deer, but have spread noticeably with human pressure removed, and will likely reclaim much of their former range. They are especially attracted to all the abandoned fields now bristling with tender saplings. They are too big to survive the Grunge easily, but none of them lived where it hit and they are uninterested in ruined cities.
* Moose have been slower to recover than the smaller white-tailed deer or elk, but have spread noticeably with human pressure removed. They are especially attracted to the many places getting soggy without the sophisticated water handling of Before. They are too big to survive the Grunge easily, but none of them lived where it hit and they are uninterested in ruined cities.
* Pumas have barely begun to recover from their low numbers and shrunken range. These shy cats prefer to avoid humans and stay in the bush. As a keystone species, they will have a big impact wherever they settle.
* Rabbits remain abundant and are a valuable food source for surviving humans. They also have more colors. The wild cottontails were joined by no small number of domestic rabbits. Some were released by owners, others escaped when people or predators opened the cages and couldn't catch them all. The solid white rabbits quickly died out except in northerly or mountainous regions with snow. Black, gray, and solid brown ones had no trouble competing alongside the wild-type agoutis. The white spotting gene has survived, especially in areas of patchy snowfall or where rabbits form large warrens and the shape-breaking effect is thus useful.
Czech Spotted Rabbit (Czech Checkered Rabbit) is a medium sized rabbit up to 3.0 to 3.75 kg, Czech pinto up to 4 kg. It originated in the Czech Republic. They have short, upright ears. The rabbit comes in agouti, black, blue, beige, tortoise, and tricolor. It has a speckled pattern. Due to the history of its origins, the breed is known as the Kleinschecke in Germany while internationally it is known as the Czech Schecke, including the European standard.
[From "The Trail of Hope"]
* Rats have become a considerable threat in many former urban areas. Too small to be much affected by the Grunge, too numerous to be slowed by losses at ground zero, these canny and voracious omnivores are already starting to get bigger than they used to be. People who remember how mammals rose up when dinosaurs died out tend to view After rats with suspicion and alarm.
* Wolves have begun to appear in far-flung places, but most packs are still small and widely scattered. Their ground-eating travel capacity means they can appear unexpectedly, especially in winter. As a keystone species, they will have a big impact wherever they settle.
Escaped Exotic Animals
Before the End, North America had many zoos and exotic wildlife parks. Most zoos were in cities, while most exotic wildlife parks or sanctuaries were in rural or wilderness areas. Animals in zoos fared poorly in the face of disaster, but some of them survived. As the apocalypse progressed, some zookeepers secretly released animals, and at the End, some triggered fire escape mechanisms to open cages. Two of the biggest zoos were in former California: Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (over 1,400 different animals, representing 270 species) and San Diego Zoo (3,500 animals that represent 650 different species). Large mammals in urban areas mostly died of the Grunge, but smaller animals had better chances. Those in exotic wildlife parks or sanctuaries had much higher chances, because they were farther from the Grunge and lived in flimsier enclosures. In particular, wildlife from Africa evolved alongside humans and developed strategies to cope with them prior to advanced technology, such as traveling in mixed herds. At the After level of technology, some of these animals will probably survive.
* Chimpanzees have enough members to form viable troops. There were around 2000 members Before, many living in sanctuaries scattered across several different states. More were likely moved to sanctuaries as the early stages of the apocalypse made it too expensive to keep them in close confinement. Possible survival areas include Wildlife Waystation in California (41 chimps), Project Chimps in Georgia (200 chimps on 236 acres), and Chimp Haven in Louisiana (300+ chimps on 200 acres). Due to the large size of troops in lush, spacious home territories, chimpanzees have an excellent chance of establishment. Their slow reproductive rate means they won't spread quickly, though. They would be exceptionally vulnerable to the Grunge, but the majority of them were already in sanctuaries away from cities, and they are unlikely to spread into cities until after the danger has largely passed.
* Elephants have enough members to form potentially viable herds. There were about 65-69 elephants owned by circuses and travelling shows, about 67 in sanctuaries, and 230 in zoos. Some of the zoo herds were likely moved to sanctuaries as the early stages of the apocalypse made it too expensive to keep them in close confinement. Possible survival areas include the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee (7 Asian elephants and 4 African elephants on 2,700 acres), Performing Animal Welfare Society in Galt, California (8 African and Asian elephants on 100 acres), Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary near Greenbriar, Arkansas (12 mixed gender African and Asian elephants on 330 acres), and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Florida (42 elephants on 200 acres). While North America had no native elephants left, these may fill niches left vacant by extinct species. As the Asian elephant has a minimum viable population of 266 and the American population is split between Asian and African species, long-term survival is unlikely. However, they might last for a while. In their favor: adult elephants don't really have predators, there's a vast supply of food available, and traumatized humans knocked down to low tech would probably avoid them rather than risk injury.
* Emus were the tenth most popular zoo species, but also farmed primarily for meat and eggs with a population around 13,300. Texas had the largest emu population, followed by California and Wisconsin. While Wisconsin survival seems unlikely, California and Texas are excellent habitat for these desert birds. The population is plentiful enough to thrive, if humans don't eat too many of the eggs.
* Giraffes were the seventh most popular zoo species and had an American population of about 563 Before. The largest herd in North America is at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado at 17 reticulated giraffes (5 males, 12 females). With a minimum viable population of 30 females and 3 males, they might survive. Factors against establishment: they are conspicuous and don't breed very fast. Factors for establishment: they have an advantage in spotting predators, they run at impressive speeds, and their food is abundant. Humans limited to the remaining technology are unlikely to catch up to them.
* Lions were the second most popular zoo animal with a zoo population around 200 plus hundreds or even thousands more in sanctuaries or private ownership. They are formidable cooperative hunters and relatively fertile for large predators, giving them an excellent chance to establish themselves if they have enough starting members. Calculating their minimum viable population is difficult because number of prides as well as individuals is a critical factor in success. Consider 100 prides and about 500 individuals a strong basis for survival. So the main question is whether the scattered prides could find each other in time to exchange mates -- a process assisted by cats' long-distance ability to scent pheromones. Without heavy weaponry, humans are less likely to threaten lions and more likely to get eaten. African lions could take up the empty niches left behind by extinct species such as sabertooth cats.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Turpentine Creek is a non-profit organization that provides lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused, and neglected "big cats". Our goal is to provide a lifetime sanctuary for all rescued animals with the care, safety, and well being of the animals as the number one priority. All animals are treated with the dignity and compassion they deserve. Our Eureka Springs, Arkansas, refuge houses nearly 100 animals including tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats, bears, ligers, servals, a coatimundi, and a macaw.
[from "The Trail of Hope"]
* Monkeys have established some populations in the wild. Among the most successful are vervet monkeys in Florida. Squirrel monkeys also live there. Although primates are the most vulnerable to the Grunge, these species are too small to be affected much. They have a reasonable chance of surviving, particularly if additional mokeys escape from zoos or sanctuaries.
* Ostriches have been farmed mainly for meat and eggs. There are leading populations in Texas (2,700 birds on 48 farms), Illinois (406 birds on 4 farms), California, and Kansas with a total around 6,540 ostriches on 258 farms. While Illinois and Kansas seem iffy, Texas and California are excellent habitat for these desert birds. The population is plentiful enough to thrive, if humans don't eat too many of the eggs.
* Tigers were the most popular zoo animal with about 2,884 tigers in 468 American facilities. However, many more lived in exotic wildlife parks or private ownership -- as many as 10,000. Factors against establishment: tigers are more vulnerable to populations losses than some other big cats. Factors for establishment: good fertility, formidable hunting ability, plentiful food, and relatively high starting numbers in flimsy containment. Without heavy weaponry, humans are less likely to threaten tigers and more likely to get eaten. Tigers could take up the empty niches left behind by extinct species such as sabertooth cats.
* Zebras have appeared both in zoos and private collections. About 200 Grevy's zebras live in 50 zoos and around 263 plains zebras live in 58 zoos. There was already a herd of over 120 plains zebras living wild around San Simeon, California. With a minimum viable population of 68, that herd alone is well situated for long-term survival, and others may exist. Zebras are suited to warm dry grasslands such as the southwest.
Domestic and Feral Animals
After the apocalypse, domestic animals have largely shifted from pets to working animals. Livestock has become much more important to everyday life for food, fiber, and labor. Most fancy breeds have died out, with practical breeds and unregistered landrace animals faring better. Many animals abandoned around the End have gone feral, with some establishing viable populations.
* Camels have been used in zoos and circuses, but most are privately held by about 20-30 individuals. Herd numbers range from 8-80 camels, with over 2,000 Arabian and 300-500 Bactrian camels. About 100-200 of these are actually trained for work; camels can be used for riding or carrying loads, especially in deserts. Two camel safari operations exist, in Texas and Tennessee. Camels breed well in America and have a chance at establishing themselves in the wild. However, they are much more valuable as livestock After than Before because they can go where few other animals can. This is enormously useful in the southwest.
* Cats including housecats and alley cats have thrived in the Aftermath. They prowl the abandoned cities feasting on vermin, and have spread into the abandoned fields beyond. Most communes keep cats to hunt rodents. The features are starting to shift somewhat in response to changing conditions. Most fancy cats died off, leaving the more robust mixed breeds. More shorthaired than longhaired cats survived, except in cold areas where the long hair gives an advantage. Black, brown, and gray cats are the most common due to camouflage. In some areas, orange and cream cats blend well enough with dry grass or sand to thrive. Solid white cats haven't done well, but the white spotting gene survives in calico and bicolor cats, who are more common in human areas than in the wild. Tortoiseshell is among the most advantageous of patterns. In some regards, they fill largely vacant niches once occupied by lynxes and bobcats. Some breeds are favored by homesteaders for catching vermin -- such as the Maine Coon, Siamese, Japanese Bobtail, and Manx -- but most surviving cats are landrace.
* Chickens survived primarily from homesteads, so the older breeds are taking over from the commercial ones. Leghorns may lay a lot, but they won't brood and don't forage well. Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Rocks fare somewhat better, good foragers, balanced for meat and eggs, occasionally broody. Anconas are exceptional egg layers and foragers, also climate hardy. Easter Eggers have stuck around because they're hardy and diverse, even though they don't brood well. Cold-hardy, broody Orpingtons are popular for meat and decent for eggs. Wyandottes are broody, cold-hardy, enthusiastic foragers, good for eggs and meat. Silkies are free-ranging, heat tolerant, and make excellent mothers. Buckeyes are very cold hardy, climate hardy, adaptable, good for eggs and meat, capable foragers, and somewhat broody. Old English Game chickens are excellent foragers and climate hardy. Egyptian Fayoumis are heat tolerant, excellent foragers and egg layers, but seldom broody. Marans are broody, good for eggs and meat, good foragers, adaptable, and tolerant of wet conditions.
* Cattle haven't fared well with the exception of longhorns, who barely noticed the disappearance of humans except for making it a bit harder to find water. Most of the meat and milk cows disappeared quickly, but some survived. Many communes keep cows. Black Angus is a meat breed. Galloway is a meat breed that grows fast on grass. Jersey is a favorite milk breed. Milking Devon is a rare triple-purpose breed good for milk, meat, and draft that does well on rough forage. North Devon is a meat breed: hardy, fertile, and enthusiastic foragers. Red Poll is a hardy and gentle breed used for milk and meat. Scottish Highland is a shaggy meat breed that will eat damn near anything, popular in communes. Simmental is a red-and-white dual-purpose breed.
* Dogs have done great without humans, sometimes to the point of causing problems. Most tiny and giant dogs, along with those who had distorted features, have died off. Mutts often outcompete purebreeds. In many places, packs of wild dogs have replaced wolves -- although they can't stand up to real wolves. Most humans have canine companions. Some breeds have survived, though, mostly working dogs. The most popular among survivalists, and even more so in the Aftermath, is the Mountain Cur primarily from the southeast. Along the West Coast, a leading favorite is the Northern California Black Mouth Cur. Siberian Huskies and Malamutes remain sled and pack dogs of choice in cold climates. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers are among the most popular guard and war dogs. Coonhounds, Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, and Beagles thrive as hunting dogs. Border Collies excel at herding. One surprising survivor is the Basenji, among the oldest dog breeds, who fled the cities and established themselves in the southwest where the climate resembles their native Egypt.
Prior to European contact, the Cherokee had domesticated dogs, which they used for food and pack animals.
In this setting, the Cherokee Cur descends from the landrace dogs of the Cherokee tribe. It is a medium-sized dog with a short, smooth coat that is most often yellow but can range from cream through reddish to almost brown, sometimes with white markings. They are tireless draft dogs who can carry a pack or pull a travois, and they love hiking. Compare with the Carolina Dog (also called Cherokee Cur) here. While it is often claimed that all the Indian dogs died out, all we actually have is the fact that so far nobody has found genetic proof of their survival -- but they haven't tested every canid on Turtle Island. The Carolina Dogs were quite likely related to, or the same as, the dogs kept by some southeastern tribes.
Dog weight pulling is one sport for draft dogs. They can often pull 3-4 times their body weight, although some can pull much more.
Historic accounts mention tribal dogs carried packs of 40-50 pounds on their backs, or pulled a travois with up to 250 pounds. Some of these were the bigger and more wolfish Indian dogs. Modern references range from 10% to 33% of the dog's bodyweight for packs, with most sources suggesting 20-25%.
At 30 to 65 pounds, a conditioned Cherokee Cur can pack about 10-20 pounds. With a wheeled cart on flat ground, they could pull 90-260 pounds. With a travois over rough ground, it's probably toward the lower end of that range. In any case, bigger dogs can handle more than smaller dogs, and conditioned dogs more than novices. A pack dog can carry about as much as a child's backpack and cart or travois dog as much or more than an adult's backpack. For comparison, a standard soldier's kit weighs 100 pounds, some carry over 200, and it's acknowledged as a problem causing injuries. A typical backpacker may carry 1/4 their body weight, a fit one 1/3 their weight, but most people don't want more than 1/7 to 1/6 their weight; 30 pounds is a common example.
* Goats have done just fine in the Aftermath, although the fancy breeds have mostly disappeared. Those based on rugged ancestors survive both in communes and in the wild. Alpine breeds have drifted toward the mountains, where they lead in milk production. Fast-growing and fertile, African Boers have established themselves in the hot, dry areas; they are used for meat and pack animals. Nigerian is a dual-purpose breed hardy in hot climates. La Mancha is a milk breed, by far the most popular in cold climates as their tiny ears don't freeze. Cashmere goats produce fiber, but may require protection from harsh weather; they are popular in Canada. Brush goats are among the most common, a mixture of various breeds that will eat anything and turn it into good meat. They are the usual source of the feral goat herds spreading in rough territory that won't support bigger animals like cows.
Among the best goats for homesteading are plain old briar goats. They are mixed-breed or landrace goats, not fancy purebred goats, selected for their superior foraging ability. Goats are easy to raise, producing milk and meat from land that isn't good for much else.
[From "The Trail of Hope"]
* Horses have become much more popular for riding and draft purposes. Among the most popular multipurpose horses are Morgans and mustangs. Quarter horses are versatile with great endurance. Belgian and Clydesdale breeds are among the more common draft breeds. Halflingers are light draft horses, good for many purposes. Gypsy Vanners also light drafts with great versatility and intelligence plus flashy appearance, although the long hair isn't an asset After. Arabians are flighty, but adaptable in hot dry conditions, and a fast ride. Although rare Before, the few surviving gaited horses became instantly precious After such as Florida Crackers, Missouri Fox Trotters, and Rocky Mountain Horses. A few indigenous breeds survived on Indian reservations. Wild horses and burros quickly flowed out of their reserves to cover more of the West, but also heading north and east toward better grass. Formerly impoverished Indians went horsecatching and quickly became much wealthier.
* Llamas had around 40,000 individuals in America before the apocalypse, divided into various types. They can be used for pack animals or guarding sheep, and they produce wonderful warm fiber. They also purr or hum, which some people find soothing. These features have made them more popular After.
* Parakeets, parrots, and macaws were established across an astonishingly wide range before the End. There have been 56 different parrot species spotted in 43 states, 25 of those species with wild breeding populations across 23 states. The top three species -- Monk Parakeet, Red-Crowned Parrot, and Nanday Parakeet -- make up over half the feral population. Southern states like Florida have the largest and most diverse populations. They are filling niches left vacant by America's extinct parrot species. The populations took a hit from the Grunge during the bombing, due to birds' sensitive respiratory system, but are too small to be vulnerable otherwise. Most populations quickly rebounded After.
* Peafowl were established in what used to be southern California before the End, despite being jungle birds rather than desert birds. They have been domesticated in India for thousands of years, and were originally imported as pets, then escaped to become a large feral population. They are large, edible, and relatively easy to catch. The populations took a hit from the Grunge during the bombing, due to birds' sensitive respiratory system, but are too small to be vulnerable otherwise. Most populations quickly rebounded After.
* Pigs have survived well because they can eat almost anything -- including garbage -- and turn it into tasty meat. Plenty of communes keep pigs. Modern commercial breeds meant to be fattened on grain haven't done as well as heritage breeds meant to forage. Saddlebacks are excellent grazers and mothers. Red Wattles are hardy, good foragers, and fertile. Tamworths produce lots of meat on pasture or forest. Gloucester Old Spots will eat anything and turn it into good meat and lard. In particular the feral hogs of the south and west regions, a mix of domestic and wild boar called "razorbacks," have spread in the Aftermath. They are a nuisance in many ways, a serious threat to food crops, and downright deadly in conflict with humans. But in the end, they're still pigs: good hunting and good eating. While it takes care and skill to kill one, a single pig yields a large amount of food and a useful amount of other resources, because After people use "everything but the squeal."
* Rabbits are small, can survive on grass or kitchen scraps, and breed like -- well, rabbits. They have thrived in the Aftermath as one of the fastest ways to convert plants to meat. They also produce excellent fertilizer. New Zealand White is a commercial meat breed. Dutch rabbits are small and active, good for a "rabbit tractor" in a commune. Rexes are dual-purpose for meat and their plush fur. Multiple breeds of rabbit are popular with homesteaders and survivalists, as they have more uses than just meat.
* Sheep have done tolerably well in the Aftermath. While modern breeds were minimally suited to survival, some heritage breeds fared much better. Sheep are valuable because they produce wool, milk, and meat. A number of communes keep sheep for one or more of these reasons. Jacob sheep are multicolored with nice wool, and do well on pasture. Icelandic sheep are shaggy and hardy in harsh weather. Dorsets are good for milk, meat, and wool. California Red is a meat breed that produces interesting reddish wool. Lacaune is a hair sheep mostly raised for milk. A few of the toughest breeds have established themselves in the wild. Hair sheep that shed are much more suited to independence than wool sheep that need shearing. Not many have much defense against predators, though, which will become much more of an issue over time as predator populations recover from human pressure.