Central Park Coyote Dream: worlds within worlds

Worlds within worlds

Some people dream of bicycles and when they wake, they dust off their bikes and ride to the river. There they discover they can no longer tell an egret from a plastic bag nor a hawk from a hand saw. Other people dream of petty grievances and wake with hurt feelings, nursing grudges against unknowing friends.

I dream of coyotes.

In my dream, the animals move east from their ancestral home range in the Great Plains into the Great Lakes and beyond. Some enter Ohio and Pennsylvania, while others cross north into Ontario before resuming their eastward journey. In Canada, they mix with remnants of a wolf population that roamed the east before being decimated by European settlers.

In my dream, it is the 1930s and coyotes are slipping south across the international border that no animal recognizes to enter New York state. Over the next three or four decades, they reach Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. By the 1990s, coyotes are thriving throughout Westchester and the Bronx, and in the last year of the last century, a young male crosses the waters that separate Manhattan Island from the mainland. Captured in Central Park, the coyote is banished to the Queens Zoo, where he still lives today.

Otis, the outrider, still lives in the Queens Zoo.

Otis, as he comes to be called, turns out to be a harbinger of a population on the move. In 2006, another young coyote turns up in Central Park, and within the first two months of 2010, coyotes are spotted in Chelsea, Central Park, Harlem, Morningside Heights and Highbridge Park. No one knows how many have come into Manhattan; it may be as many as four or five or, more likely, just one or two moving through city streets and parks. By early March, the animals seem to have melted into the city streets and left no trace behind.

Except for one. Sleeping by day in Hallett Nature Sanctuary at the southeast corner of Central Park, a solitary coyote emerges each night when the park grows quiet.

In my dream, I am staring into the dark forested slope of the Sanctuary, looking for movement. A slim, lithe, dog-like shadow slips across the little land bridge on the west side, bounds over the low fence that borders the walkway, and trots up the path. Repeatedly disturbed by oblivious walkers and once by Parks crew in golf carts with flashlights, the coyote swiftly leaps back, undetected, to the safety of the Sanctuary and disappears.

I wait in the gathering dark for a reappearance. Time passes. Raccoons haul their burly bodies out of hollow trees, groom themselves awake, then lumber to the ground and trundle off into the Sanctuary on mysterious rounds.

Central Park Raccoon, Bruce Yolton, Urbanhawks.com

Cold now and tired from a week of early rising, I call it quits. I pass through Artists Gate and, still searching the park for movement, head west on 59th Street toward the subway.

And suddenly, the coyote is there, standing in a clearing next to a huge dark outcropping, directly across from Essex House. Its gaze is intelligent, alert and sharp, as if it’s trying to make an informed decision about which way to go.

I stop in my tracks. Behind me, carriage horses stand patiently with lowered heads, while their gossiping drivers wait for fares. Pedestrians hurry past. Inside the park wall, just a few yards away, the coyote occupies an untamed world that nests within the civilized world of the city like a Russian doll. My city holds so many worlds, perhaps an infinite number of worlds, worlds natural and unnatural, familiar and strange beyond imagining. In some few of these worlds, coyotes roam free.

Eyes meet across many borders, and hold.

Then the coyote turns and trots north out of sight.

I keep dreaming and do not wake up.

D. Bruce Yolton; Urbanhawks.com

This post is part of the Carnival of Evolution #24, hosted by 360 Degree Skeptic. Visit the carnival and enjoy the rides.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, coyotes, In the City, March, raccoons, strange encounters, Wildlife/Natural History

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17 Comments on “Central Park Coyote Dream: worlds within worlds”


  1. […] the first coyote sighting in Manhattan since March 2010 when a beautiful young coyote spent about a month in the city. She quickly found her way to Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary and made her base in […]


  2. […] spotted at a large cemetery in Queens. (They also breed in the Bronx, and have been seen in Manhattan and Staten Island.) In fact, urban foxes in the UK seem to occupy a similar niche as coyotes now do […]

  3. Jenny Says:

    This post is amazing. I love this bit in particular:

    “My city holds so many worlds, perhaps an infinite number of worlds, worlds natural and unnatural, familiar and strange beyond imagining. In some few of these worlds, coyotes roam free.”

    Thank you very much for sharing – you’ve inspired me to reread Kingsolver’s “Animal Dreams”!


  4. […]  Directly behind the patient horses is an unassuming spot in Central Park that marks for me one of my heart-lurching sightings of  a wild native dog, Canis latrans, the Central Park coyote. […]


  5. […] sighted over a two month period. In early March, a young 30-pound female coyote, probably the Central Park coyote, was captured in downtown Tribeca,. She was taken to Animal Care and Control for observation and […]

  6. Dave Says:

    Great account. And I love that last photo by Bruce Yolton.

    • Melissa Says:

      Thank you, Dave. Yes, Bruce’s photos of the coyote are wonderful. All shot at night so the color is strange & mysterious. Glad you stopped by!

  7. JK Says:

    What a beautiful post. My dog and I have had a few surprisingly close and strangely thoughtful moments with the coyote late at night in the park. I’m glad someone got pictures of my elusive friend.

    • Melissa Says:

      Thank you, JK. I’d love to hear more abt your encounters with the coyote. I am amazed it has been almost two months that it’ s been living with us.


  8. What a very nice dream. It does seem so lucky and surreal to see him.

  9. Mark Says:

    Wonderful post. The worlds within worlds are almost infinite, each ecosystem supporting another within itself.

    • Melissa Says:

      Thank you, Mark. Yes, the big shift is to realize that the city too is an ecosystem (or many), and a viable habitat for other creatures besides humans.


  10. Hi Melissa–
    Love your blog. We have just set up a blog for Edith at http://www.edithtiglauer.blogspot.com. (Don’t forget the “t” Check it out!

    Edith and Howie

  11. Charlotte Says:

    Fabulous. I’m with daddyo, keep dreaming, keep telling these stories, keep researching yr dear coyotes who visit you at night and while you keep dreaming they keep walking….

  12. daddy0 Says:

    Fabulous. Keep dreaming–and telling us about it. DaddyO


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