A coyote might be one of the last things you'd expect to see in the Big Apple, but experts say that there's no need for New Yorkers to panic.
On Thursday, police in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood caught a 50-pound coyote that was roaming the streets, shooting it with tranquilizer darts, according to published reports.
Now that winter is over, Americans are more likely to encounter raccoons or even bears foraging in their trash cans, mountain lions padding along park paths, and maybe even a coyote howling at the moon in Manhattan.
“[Coyotes] were residing in some of the big parks in the Bronx. There’s been one resident coyote in Queens since 2009,” says Dr. Chris Nagy, a wildlife biologist, director of research at the Mianus River Gorge and member of the Gotham Coyote Project.
He says coyotes have been migrating down from the Canadian border since the 1940s and were first sighted in New York City back in the late 1990s.
According to Nagy, despite the fact that approximately 400,000 coyotes are killed each year by licensed hunters in America, “Coyotes are doing well in many habitats across the continent. They have many traits that allow them to deal with being exploited and being hunted.”
“If the dominant member of the pack is killed, the other females will likely breed the next spring, and often have larger than normal litters,” he adds, saying the largest litter he’s heard of included 19 pups.
Mike Durant, of Mike’s Gentle Wildlife Relocation service in Constable, New York, says that he is seeing an abundance of coyote there, but his main concern in the coming season is helping residents of New York State cope with black bears whose habitat may be vanishing, as well as raccoons and bats.
“I just went to a bear conference last week and somebody had flown in from Nevada to talk about bears,” Mr. Durant says. “Also, hibernation is over and a lot of raccoons have just had babies and those females are looking pretty rough from the babies running them ragged. People see them in daytime foraging and looking mangy and get panicked that they’re rabid when they’re not.”
Brown bats are also making an appearance and Durant is appealing to those who would call exterminators to reconsider.
“We lost a lot of brown bats to white nose syndrome, a fungus on the nose that has taken 80 percent of the bats in the Catskills over a two year period, and we need them to help control the mosquito population, so please don’t kill the bats,” he implores.
New Yorkers wary of encountering coyotes shouldn't panic, however.
“The rate of coyote attacks on people is similar to the rate of deaths by vending machines,” Nagy says. “There’s about two deaths a year by vending machines and about three or four attacks by coyotes across the US and Canada.”
Those who encounter a coyote in their environment should use a tactic Nagy recommends called “hazing,” which involves yelling and making quick steps toward the animal.
The wrong thing to do is to try and approach a wild coyote or any other carnivorous wildlife such as fox, bear, or raccoon like you would a friendly neighborhood pet. Also, don’t feed the wildlife, he warns.
“Where we see trouble is when coyotes learn that humans equal food, not that they’re trying to eat people,” but, rather that they have been fed by people either directly or via trash cans left without lids.
Don’t try and domesticate a coyote like one might a stray dog, he warns.
“If you encounter a wild coyote you should never try and be buddies with it or make it come closer,” Nagy says. “Enjoy the sighting for what it is, you know, an amazing wild animal in a very unusual environment, but keep at a distance.”