Posted tagged ‘coyotes Jamaica Queens’

Co-existing with Urban Coyotes – even in NYC

December 18, 2011

Hal, a young coyote trapped in Central Park in 2006, died before he could be relocated. Photograph by Daniel Avila, courtesy New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Coyote Sightings in Queens: Is the Situation Dangerous?

Residents of Jamaica, Queens have reported sightings of coyotes near the Locust Manor LIRR station. According to the usual media hype, they are being “terrorized” by dangerous predators. It’s impossible to tell from the reporting whether there is one coyote, spotted many times, or several. It’s also difficult to ascertain whether the coyote(s) have shown behavior that is worrisome or potentially dangerous. Often people, especially city dwellers, panic at the very idea of a wild animal among us. Simply seeing a coyote, even in a residential or commercial area, is not in itself cause for alarm. Most coyotes are naturally fearful and wary of humans, and try to keep their distance.

Wary California coyote peers into backyard. Photo by Charlotte Hildebrand.

Removal or Relocation

If the situation in Locust Manor is determined to be dangerous, the city or USDA will respond accordingly. Usually, if an individual animal has shown itself to be aggressive, it will be trapped and killed. If it is considered a nuisance rather than a threat, authorities may attempt to trap and relocate it.  In 2010, a 30-pound female coyote took up residence for a month in Central Park’s Hallett Sanctuary. She began venturing out of the park at night, and was eventually trapped in Tribeca and relocated to an undisclosed location within city limits.

Coyote in Central Park 2010. Photo by D. Bruce Yolton of Urbanhawks.com (click photo to visit)

How well relocation works, either for the coyote or the neighborhood, is an open question. Leaving aside Manhattan Island, research in other communities indicates that many relocated coyotes try to return to their original area (and often don’t make it, hit by cars as they attempt to cross busy roads). The public likes to think of relocation as more humane than killing, a happy compromise for all, but the truth is, as so often in nature, more complex. Most areas that are suitable for relocation of a wild animal already have a resident population of the species that will not welcome an interloper.

Removal is also unlikely to be a permanent solution to a neighborhood’s problem. The qualities that drew a coyote to settle in a particular area (available food, water and shelter) will, in all likelihood, eventually attract new animals into the void created by the removal.

It’s Our Turn To Adapt

Once confined to the Great Plains, coyotes are in the process of colonizing the entire country, a process that began about a hundred years ago. They have evinced a remarkable ability to adapt to the dramatic environmental changes we humans have created, including the loss of traditional habitat. Sooner or later, we must accept their presence in our communities, and learn to co-exist with them. Like it or not, it’s our turn to adapt.

Still, we humans need to adjust our behavior to accommodate the new reality of coyotes in our midst.  Below are basic guidelines, compiled from wildlife biologists, on living with urban and suburban coyotes.

I’m not a coyote expert. I’m an amateur naturalist who is intrigued by urban nature and the changing interplay between humans and wild animals. In a future post, I’ll provide links to a variety of websites from New York and around the country that offer fascinating information on coyote behavior and how to live with these remarkable creatures.

LIVING WITH COYOTES

Keep cats inside. Cats, astonishingly effective little killers of birds and rodents, are often killed in turn by coyotes. If you love them, keep them inside.

Supervise and leash your dogs. Keep smaller dogs under close supervision, even in a fenced yard. Don’t leave pets out at night. Never leave a pet tied up outside without close supervision.

Supervise small children when they play outside, even in a fenced yard.

Don’t feed the animals. Pet food, garbage, and your cat or small dog are all food to a wild animal.  Secure your garbage, and don’t feed your pets outside.

Enjoy watching coyotes from a distance, and never try to lure them closer with food. If you like coyotes, do not try to “make friends” with them.  A common saying among coyote experts is, “A fed coyote is a dead coyote.” Feeding leads the animal to become habituated to humans, which may lead to aggressive demands for food, or to perceived aggression when a coyote approaches too closely.

If you see a coyote, make yourself appear large and potentially threatening by waving your arms and shouting. Let the coyote know that encounters with humans are thoroughly unpleasant and should be avoided. Blow a loud whistle or horn, or bang pots and pans. Don’t run. Running may trigger the coyote’s instinct to chase.

A coyote that is aggressive towards people needs to be removed, which generally means killed.

Report aggressive animals immediately. But remember: just spotting an animal does not mean it is a threat. Seeing a wild animal may be, in fact, an opportunity.

Keep wildlife wild.

Young coyote startled by the sound of a camera. Photo by Charlotte Hildebrand.

Queens Coyotes Expand NYC Range

December 16, 2011

Coyotes have taken up residence in another New York City borough.  They’ve long been living in the wilds of the Bronx.  Now continued coyote sightings and encounters confirm that at least one animal, and possibly several, are living near the Locust Manor Long Island Railroad station in Jamaica, Queens. The local media is playing up the situation (‘Coyotes Terrorizing Residents Near LIRR Station’) as if a pack of fire-breathing, man-eating dragons had moved into the patch of woods by the train tracks.

Residents of the Locust Manor neighborhood are scared, which is certainly understandable, particularly given the lack of reliable information about urban coyotes.  One woman tells a reporter that she turned around and “it was on me,” a statement the reporter does nothing to clarify. Does the woman mean that the coyote attacked her or that it simply and suddenly appeared? Clearly not the former, or the reporter would have had an even bigger field day.

I started to wonder about the ongoing presence of coyotes in Queens when a post I wrote last January, NYC Coyote Watch 2011: Coyote in Queens, suddenly began receiving a large number of hits from people seeking information on coyotes in Queens.  In February, a reader wrote in to say that a friend of his had spotted a coyote in Flushing Cemetery. In April, another reader wrote worriedly of a disturbing encounter in Jamaica, near the LIRR tracks. Frank Vincent of  The Wild Dog Foundation wrote back, offering to speak to the community about the issue. And yesterday, a reader wrote about her family’s encounters with the Locust Manor coyote.

In the wake of the news report, the city sent a park ranger to investigate the situation.  My hope is that the city and the community will take an active role in educating residents about co-existing with wildlife. Many communities in New York and around the country are bringing in wildlife experts to talk to their citizens, defuse hysteria, answer questions, and offer suggestions and perspective. Informative websites are Project Coyote, based in California, and Chicago’s Urban Coyote Research Project.

The Locust Manor coyotes are certainly not the first wild coyotes in Queens. The animals appear to be spreading throughout the borough. Almost a year ago, a beautiful reddish coyote was spotted in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, not far from Long Island City. Calvary Cemetery is in Zone Two in the NYC map below, while Locust Manor, Jamaica, is in Zone Twelve, and Flushing is in Zone Seven. I think they’ve got the borough covered.

New York neighborhoods

When coyotes are spotted in such disparate areas, odds are pretty good that they’re living unnoticed, or unreported, in other areas as well.

This is big wildlife news for New York City, as well as for Long Island. For years, New York State wildlife experts have maintained that coyotes are resident throughout the state with the exception of Long Island. But Queens is on Long Island, so that statement clearly needs a little updating.

Today, Queens. Tomorrow, the Hamptons.  Oh, and Brooklynites, you’d better keep your eyes open.


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