Seattle has long been thought of as a progressive, forward-thinking city, with high literacy rates, strong emphasis on healthy, green living, and some of the lowest church attendance in the nation. But lucrative tourist attractions like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market often overshadow one of Seattle's greatest environmental achievements: its expansive system of wild hobo preserves.
With literally hundreds of hobo preserves inside city limits, Seattle has made great leaps toward protecting the hobo's natural habitat from the ravages of gentrification, law enforcement, and cleanliness. Wide open grassy areas allow the hobo free range to roam and forage, while ample shrubbery and access to cardboard easily accommodate the hobo's nesting habits. Restroom facilities even allow the shyer, more timid species to defecate in privacy, away from the noise and bright lights of the public sidewalks.
Unlike many other cities, Seattle has refused to fence in its hobo preserves, believing that captivity--even in a very large space--would inhibit the hobo's natural behavioral patterns. This "open range" design results in hobos sometimes wandering out of the preserves and into the city streets, where they face danger of arrest by law enforcement or severe injury from fast-moving traffic. Many hobo experts believe, however, that the additional food sources found in the city--dumpsters, dead pigeons, takeout meals coerced from diners exiting restaurants--more than compensate for these risks, and allow city residents a truer, more intimate experience with Seattle's natural hobo fauna.
Although they play an important role in conserving the northwest's natural hobo ecology, these preserves are not dry, sterile research centers for biologists to study the hobo's fascinating behavior and unique anatomy. (See last week's article, The Pissing Link: How the Mysterious "Hobosapien" Has Left The Scientific Community Scratching Its Balls) On the contrary, hobo preserves are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, providing Seattleites with breathtaking, breathholding encounters with these gentle creatures.
Visit a preserve during daylight hours for a glimpse into the hobo's social structure. Although not considered a pack animal, hobos often congregate in small groups beneath trees or next to fountains, where they exchange food and cigarettes and communicate through a language of loud, slurred grunts. Visit after dark, alone, and you may witness the hobo's mating activity--or even experience it!
Sadly, despite Seattle's best conservation efforts, the hobo population faces serious threats from drug treatment centers, rising employment rates, and a looming universal health care system. So next time you visit a hobo preserve, do your part for the furry inhabitants of our alleys and street corners. If a hobo asks you for drug money, give whatever you can afford, but don't try to feed them--the hobo can't digest unprocessed food, and it may upset their delicately balanced diet of Doritos and chewing tobacco. Do not attempt to offer them work or direct them to a shelter, either--this can irritate the hobo's highly developed sense of entitlement, and may provoke an attack.
Although the wild hobo maintains a complex and troubled relationship with mankind, they are truly remarkable creatures, and an important addition to the Northwest's rich diversity of wildlife. For a list of all Seattle's hobo preserves, please visit: www.seattle.gov/PARKS