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.
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.