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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New York City Is Getting Coyote Ugly

First appeared on Blogcritics.

coyo There is a news story trending here in New York City and vicinity that has people going bonkers – there are coyote sightings everywhere. Just today there was word that a clever coyote that eluded police for days had been apprehended. Everywhere across the city people breathed a sigh of relief – that is until another coyote sighting is reported. And lately, that seems like every other day or so.

coyo 5I must admit that the only thing I know about coyotes comes from watching Saturday morning cartoons. Wile E. Coyote (he had a business card claiming that he was a genius if you recall) could never manage to capture that elusive Road Runner, despite the many deliveries of contraptions from ACME to accomplish the task. More often than not Wile E. was seen falling from a precipice and ending up in a cloud of dust way below.

The media has stoked the fires of this story and New Yorkers have loved it. It is because (like bears in northern New Jersey before them) of the wild reactions of people on the street that the fear factor of these creatures gains traction. The encroachment of wildlife on our fair city is nothing new (over the years I have seen hawks, raccoons, possums, owls, and the ubiquitous city squirrel), but now everyone is acting like they are scared.

If you judge by the comments of locals, you would think that werewolves were terrorizing the city. Next thing you know men and women will be securing their homes, making silver bullets, and getting ready for the blood thirsty beasts to burst through windows and doors and try to devour children and small animals. Oh, the madness of this coyote apocalypse!

coyo 2There are voices of reason though amidst the insanity here in the naked city. Mark Weckel, conservation scientist and co-founder of Gotham Coyote Project, believes New Yorkers should not fear the carnivores. He notes that the animals have moved south and established dens in the Bronx after many years of living in Westchester County. 


Coyotes (Canis latrans) are closely related to wolves but are smaller and usually weigh 30-50 pounds. They are normally shy animals and stay away from people, but there have been reports of people trying to pet or feed coyotes. According to Weckel that is not a very good idea. Keeping the coyote a “wild” animal is better for them and for people too.

coyo 3So why are New Yorkers getting crazy about coyotes? In part the story of an attacking rabid coyote in New Jersey stoked the flames of the fire. Now people are thinking of these “wild dogs” as something menacing. As soon as city residents see one they are excited and scared, and the police have been called in to search for them once their presence is reported, the goal being to tranquilize them and bring them to animal shelters.

Since the last sighting in Middle Village people on Long Island are hoping that they won't be next. Weckel notes that Long Island is “the last large land mass without a breeding population of coyotes in the United States.” However, with them being in adjacent Queens it should not be too long before they are seen there too.

I have had to deal with raccoons for years, and mostly they are nocturnal creatures who do not bother anyone; however, poorly stored garbage tends to attract them and, one time after a party, I learned the hard way about sealing the garbage container lids. I heard a noise in the yard, turned on the porch light, and discovered a raccoon enjoying itself. When I opened the door, old Rocky ran off with a prize – the carcass of that night’s roasted chicken.

It seems obvious that coyotes are looking for food, so we can do our part by not feeding them and keeping garbage secure. There is also a realization that wild animals have been living all around us for years. Anyone who has put a pumpkin outside for Halloween knows what squirrels will do to it. New Yorkers are usually resilient and now we must not get coyote ugly here; let’s forget the hysteria and get over it – coyotes are, as Weckel observes, here to stay.

For now the coyote stories are going to continue to be amusing, mostly because of people’s reactions. As coyotes settle in and become New Yorkers, there should be a gradual acceptance of their presence, just like those extremely annoying cartoon characters in Times Square. And, if we have any luck, some of them will make their way into the subways and feast on the rat population. That would be a win-win for all New Yorkers – coyotes and people.

  Photo credits: NYPD, ny daily news, kleberly.com,    

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