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In September 1983, nuclear weapons fell across the planet, many thousands of cities and towns were destroyed and the surviving humans evacuated huge areas and escaped to 'safe' areas.
In their wake, they left many animals some of which were domesticated, like pet cats and dogs, and some not so domesticated.
In the United States, the craze of the late 1970s and early '80s was to own large exotic pets, tigers, lions and other big cats were kept in backyards across the country. After Doomsday many escaped, survived and reproduced.
Across the world, many zoos - and in particular Safari parks - escaped destruction from the nukes and the animals they contained survived and in some cases thrived without human intervention.
Although there had been reports in the press of large black cats roaming the sparely inhabited areas of the UK well before Doomsday, these were probably pets released after the Dangerous Wild Animal Act was introduced in 1976; making the keeping of large dangerous exotic animals in private hands illegal.
On Doomsday, three large safari parks survived the destruction:
- Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire.
- Longleat Safari Park, Gloucestershire.
- Windsor Safari Park, Berkshire.
Many Zoological parks also survived, after Doomsday many of the animals escaped from their enclosures and made their way into the wild. Here they bred and spread across the abandoned countryside.
Reports of strange animals began reaching the governments of the survivor states in the large 1990s. The reports of the large big cats began to increase, there were also reports of herds of large African herbivores such as the zebra, wildebeest, antelope and even a herd of elephants have all been reported, although none have been officially recorded.
Due to the low winter temperatures across the former UK it is expected that many of the more tropical species wouldn't have survived the first winter, however many had adapted to the climate before Doomsday. This lead scientists to believe that large mammalian species, such as elephant and rhino, could survive only limited by food sources.
Due to the fact that the UK lost the majority of its large wild animals, particularly the carnivores like bears (1000AD), wolves (1740AD) and the lynx (500AD), there are many ecological niches that the escaped animals can fill.
Scientists have found that in certain areas across the whole British Isles the feral domesticated cats have begun to change into a larger variety approximately a half to two-thirds bigger than the common domesticated cat. Scientists believe that they are evolving to take the niche formally held by the European Lynx.
They have also found that some larger breeds of dogs, particularly German Shepherds, larger retrievers and larger terriers have bred and started to resemble small to medium sized wolves and some of the smaller fell terriers breeds have bred into an animal intermediate between the size of a European Red Fox (3-8 Kg) and a European Wolf (30-40 Kg)
Kingdom of Cleveland
Many of the wild animals in the Kingdom of Cleveland are feral domesticated animals, however there are colonies of exotic escapees:
- There are large numbers of American Harris hawks throughout Cleveland and the neighboring Kingdom of Northumbria and it is generally assumed that they are the descendants of escaped falconry birds.
- In the Tyne and Wear National park there are several packs of wolf-like animals and it is unknown if they are either escaped pure bred wolfs, cross breeds with feral dogs or actually just large feral dogs.
- There is a colony of Eurasian Eagle-owls in Yorkshire, again assumed to be escaped falconry birds, although some experts have noted that they may have flown across the North Sea from the Nordic Union.
In Cleveland there are plans to expand the number of native species in the country by adding in species made extinct in the recent past. To do this the Albion Wildlife Trust has set up plans to reintroduce the European beaver, European elk, Red Deer, and European Bison in the near future to the Tyne and Wear National Park.
- The first five families groups of European beaver from the Nordic Union were released into the Tyne and Wear national park in July 2011, at the same time 200 red deer from Celtic Alliance controlled Scotland were released.
- 25 European Bison (Wisent) from East Poland arrived in Cleveland in January 2012, they will be health checked and released into the national park in early summer. On the same vessel were 25 Konik horses, they will be released at the same time as the European Bison.
- 30 European Elk (moose) arrived from the Nordic Union in April 2012, they will undergo health checks and will be released in summer 2012.
Due to the more loose laws on keeping animals in comparison with the UK far more exotics escaped from captivity after Doomsday. The spread of these animals was therefore not limited to areas surrounding zoos and Safari parks.
The restored WWF has discovered hundreds of exotic animals such as lions that have appeared on the Great Plains and have become the top predator, hunting the expanding herds of plains bison and escaped cattle. In Texas and New Mexico, large herds of wild oryx and gemsbok have been found.
There have also been reports from travelers of breeding zebra, both species of elephant, three species of rhino, various types of tigers (as far north as the former Canadian border), ostrich, various types of large and small antelope, camels (both Bacrian and Dromedary), macropods such as kangaroo and wallaby, smaller cats such as caracals and servels, larger cats such as leopards and panthers, meerkats, great apes such as chimpanzee's, as well as smaller primates such as lemurs and old world monkeys.
In addition, in 2009 there are several lion prides scattered throughout southern Florida, with an estimated population of around 80-120. Several other sub-Saharan animals such as hippos are also found due to parts of the Everglades being somewhat similar to the grasslands of Africa. Miami and its surrounding area are heavily populated by parrots, although a small population was already common in Miami due to escaped zoo animals.
The North American landscape was adapted to large herbivores and predators but many went extinct after the last ice age, many scientists welcome the return of the 'mega-fauna'.
Other 'wild' animals
As well as the escaped exotic animals, there are many cases of domesticated or semi-domesticated animals becoming feral. Top most of these are former domestic dogs and cats.
As domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) began to fend for themselves, the hardiest of them began to compete with wolves, jackals, coyotes and foxes for prey in the wild. The old adage of "survival of the fittest" began to show itself so very true in the canine world. The survivors, world-wide, tended towards the larger breeds, eventually becoming every bit the predator as their brother, the wolf (Canis lupus). In the wild, in fact, thousands of years of selective breeding began to disappear within two decades with "wolves" of a different color spotted everywhere. In the UK, where there were no wolves before, the surviving dogs tended to be those most likely to be mistaken as wolves elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the traditional rival for man's heart, the domesticated cat (Felis catus, or Felis silvestris catus), became a threat to small animals everywhere, and in places with no large predators the larger the cat, the better it survived! In the UK, for example, many biologists insist that the common tabby has begun to be indistinguishable from the wildcats (Felis s. silvestris) with which they interbred in places like Scotland and southern Europe. However, as feral cats before doomsday, so afterwards, size didn't matter in most cases. Cats tend to take care of themselves.
The domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) was the one of the most populous species on earth in the days before the nuclear holocaust. The fact that most poultry farms were rural and away from nuclear strikes did not change this. However, many things caused the rapid demise of most of the domesticated stock soon after doomsday. The most serious problem was the loss of electricity, leaving large warehouse style farms unable to sustain the animals - which were either slaughtered for food (consumed locally as transportation was very limited) or let go. Those released into the wild, for the most part, became easy prey to predators. Some stock, raised for meat rather than egg production, proved somewhat more resilient. From this stock, which bred with free-range chickens raised by smaller farms, came many "wild woodfowl" looking much like the bird's wild ancestor, the red jungle-fowl (Gallus gallus).
There have been reports from around the world of wild chickens living in woodland (this was expected as chickens were one of the most populous species on the planet on Doomsday) particularly in America and Europe. Scientists and ecologists believe that they are the descendants of game fowl kept for meat, as these were they types more adapted for wild living. The majority of the birds bred for eggs or the highly domesticated breeds were killed soon after DD due to their inability to escape predators.