NYC Coyote Round-up: Walking the Talk, Talking the Walk

Ever since 2010, when I came face to face with a young female coyote in Central Park, I’ve had coyotes on the brain. As my regular readers know, I’m fascinated by (some might say, obsessed with) the urban coyote phenomenon and bowled over by the extraordinary story of migration as these highly adaptable wild dogs have spread out of their native home in the Great Plains, across the continent and into every imaginable habitat, including our suburbs and cities.

Coyotes in an unidentified NYC park. Photo: Mark Weckel. Click image to go to New York Times Green Blog.

Another winter has come and gone with no new coyote sightings in Manhattan. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t going about their business nearby.  For years, coyotes have been quietly living and breeding in the Bronx (where I suspect the photo above was taken). Recent coyote sightings in Queens induced the usual breathless, frothing-at-the-mouth coverage by local media.

A coyote in Queens, nicknamed Frank by researchers, photographed by a trail camera. Click image to go to article by Mark Weckel and Chris Nagy.

Today I have five happy bits of New York City coyote news:

1. A recent article by  Sindya N. Bhanoo in the New York Times Green Blog looked at New York’s urban coyotes with refreshing calm and genuine curiosity. Bhanoo uses well-chosen quotes – from a researcher, the head of the urban park rangers and even a high school student involved in a coyote study – to educate readers about urban coyotes, reassuring the frightened (simply seeing a coyote is not cause for alarm), cautioning the foolish and/or sentimental (don’t feed, don’t approach, etc.), and even pointing out the possible benefits of having a top predator in the hood (rodent and deer control).

2. Today, Proteus Gowanus, Brooklyn’s interdisciplinary art gallery and reading room, was the starting point for a coyote walk.

Led by artist Dillon de Give, the walk was intended not to look for coyotes, but as a way to imagine how a coyote might travel through Brooklyn. Sticking to green spaces whenever possible, Dillon led walkers into  Manhattan and north to Hallett Nature Sanctuary at the south end of Central Park. Hallett, a one-acre area that is off-limit to both dogs and humans, was used as a resting spot Manhattan’s coyote visitors in 2006 and 2010.

3. Next weekend, de Give will embark on his annual Lah walk.

Image by Dillon de Give. Click image to visit Dillon’s website.

According to Dillon’s website:

“Lah” is an annual project that commemorates the spirit of Hal, a coyote who appeared in Central Park in 2006 and died shortly after being captured by authorities.

Lah illustrates how a coyote might find its way into Manhattan with a reverse human journey out of the city: a hike retracing a potential coyote-like path through greenspaces. Citing examples of juvenile coyotes that have made long dispersal trips, the walk averages around 50-60 miles.

The walk has been performed solo, in a group, and in a pair.

In 2010, I joined Dillon and his fellow Lah walkers on the first leg of their journey from Hallett to the north end of Central Park, leaving them at Frederick Douglass Circle to continue their way north for several days.

4. On Saturday afternoon, March 31st, Frank Vincenti, Director of The Wild Dog Foundation, will lead a Coyote Lecture in Forest Park in Queens. Frank is a passionate advocate for co-existing with coyotes, and will be talking about coyote natural history. I’m guessing he will also talk about the growing population of NYC coyotes, and the latest DNA research showing that many Eastern coyotes carry wolf genes, acquired during their long migration by inter-breeding with a remnant population of Red wolves. For more information, visit the NYC Parks Department or call (718) 846-2731.

5. And last, an invitation for NYC readers to join me for a staged reading of my hot-off-the-presses new play:

New York City Coyote Existential
(a short play with science & songs)

Apologies for the blurry screen shot. Some day, I’ll learn to scan.

This is a bare bones reading in a small gallery space at Proteus Gowanus. It will feature the wonderful actress Mary Shultz as The Coyote with music by Thomas Cabaniss. Please be aware that seating is very limited, and is first come, first served.

Check back soon for updates on New York’s coyote news.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2012, Art and Literature, Central Park, coyotes, In the City, NYC Parks, Seasons, Spring, Wildlife/Natural History

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16 Comments on “NYC Coyote Round-up: Walking the Talk, Talking the Walk”

  1. […] year coyotes, somehow, make their way through the sprawling mass of the five burroughs and find their way into Central Park on the island of Manhattan. Island or not, dangerous or not, life seems to find a way to squeeze through the gaps to insulated […]

  2. mthew Says:

    Excellent! I’ll try to be there. (I’m doing something for Proteus the following week, stay tuned.)

  3. Charlotte Says:

    I like what Tricia calls it, the coyote cultural circuit! Yes, a circuit spreading the word about coexisting with coyotes….exactly what’s needed.

    Love the woodcuts on the poster, and can’t wait to see your new work!

  4. A fascinating read – particularly the article ” The Last Frontier”. One question – do species which adapt to living comfortably alongside humans ultimately become habituated if there is no perceived threat? With the ever increasing interface between wild and urban, contact becomes inevitable.

    • That’s an important question. I agree that contact is inevitable, and where there is contact, there may also be conflict. A wild predator can’t distinguish between pets and prey, and that in itself is causing conflict in communities across the country as pet cats and small dogs go missing in suburbs that have become coyote country. Clearly, people need to realize that they are choosing to put their animals at risk, if they leave them outside. But pet-eating aside, experts say it is very important to not feed animals and to maintain their natural fear of humans. Otherwise, they may progress from accepting food near human habitations (from trash, or in the form of pets or pet food left outside) to demanding food, and becoming aggressive. We should not be trying to “make friends” with wild animals. Better to respect their wildness, and try to keep them wild. I know from your own blog that you are well aware of this. It is such a fascinating subject.

  5. nyc edges Says:

    Thank you for the heads-up on the lecture & on your play reading. As a city mouse who spent a large chunk of my childhood in the country, I have an abiding in interest in wildlife — and thanks to your blog — a fascination with these urban coyote.

    • Glad you’re interested, Edges. I’ll be writing more about urban coyotes, because I just can’t help myself. They seem to me to be very like us. Hope to meet you in the real world, one of these days!

  6. p hoey Says:

    Wily Coyote says ‘thank’ee’–he needs all the appreciation he can get.

  7. Barbara Says:

    Wish I could be in NYC and at your play on April 21 – what a gas that would be. Wonderful, brilliant post Melissa – so glad to have you on the side of coyotes.

    A friend and neighbour said to me just last night with awe and delight “The coyotes are back!” and after a long period in my neighbourhood which is natural coyote territory in the countryside of central Ontario, they have returned to sing their nightly songs. Unfortunately the good old boys round about will try to “clean ’em out” again but a few will survive and continue, and maybe one day humans will understand coyote nature.

    As you said – they are great predators of rats and in all cities – that’s so necessary. Such great misunderstanding between humans and coyotes – and feral cats too for that mater.

    On behalf of all animal lovers, and coyote admirers thank you – hope you get tons of kudos for the play!

    • Barbara, such a lovely comment. Thank you. I have such beautiful images, from your own posts and your comments here, of what it must be like where you live in Ontario. A very different relationship to wildlife & nature! Yet, we each see such beauty in the animals and nature that our city or country habitats offer.

  8. Tricia Says:

    wow, had no idea there were coyotes and a coyote cultural circuit in the City!

    • Peckish Says:

      You’d be surprised Tricia! Many people have a soft spot for the Coyote’s in NYC.

      It’s great to see that there’s such a huge support behind them, and I hope that they’re all living peaceful lives.

      • I hope New Yorkers can figure out how to co-exist with coyotes. Most of Manhattan may be too built-up and populated for coyotes, but they seem to be doing just fine in the Bronx. Time will tell.

    • Tricia, I didn’t know there was a coyote cultural circuit, either – but it does start to look that way, doesn’t it? Coyotes haven’t been reported in Brooklyn yet, but your time is coming! Come see the play reading, if you can.

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