I watched Hallett Sanctuary tonight from the path near Cop Cot, hoping to see the coyote exit. I missed the exit, but saw it walk north on the path to the west of the sanctuary and was able to follow it up to Chess and Checkers before losing track of the coyote. The coyote moved so quickly, there wasn't a moment to pull out my camera.
Two days ago, a coyote was seen along the Hudson from 23rd to the 50s. It's possible that this was the Central Park coyote, but it could also be another animal. There is a video of police officers acting like Keystone cops trying to capture this animal online. (The video is not safe for work. The police officers use strong profanity.) Our tax dollars at work!
(The text that accompanies the video described coyotes terrorizing the Columbia campus. They did nothing of the sort. The campus police may have whipped up some hysteria, but by all accounts the coyotes did their best to avoid people.)
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has ultimate authority over controlling wild animals in the city. They work in conjunction with the Parks Department, Animal Care & Control (a non-profit that gets city funding) and the NYC Police Department.
Although, New York City already has lots of coyotes in the Bronx, the NYS DEC doesn't have a a good action plan for how to deal with them. As coyotes enter urban areas, residents need to be educated on how to co-exist with them (keeping pets indoors, controlling trash, not feeding them, etc.) and wildlife managers need to be trained to properly evaluate animals, so resources are only used controlling aggressive or diseased coyotes. (Although in the case of Manhattan, an argument can be made that it is not an appropriate place for large mammals like coyotes or deer.)
Unfortunately, due to the reliance on Animal Care & Control (which is having financial problems, like many non-profits), the under funding of the Parks Departments Urban Park Rangers (whose current mission is largely educational and whose jurisdiction is limited to city parks), and a Police team more used to hostage situations then animal control there is a real void when it comes to wildlife management in New York City's agencies and poor inter-agency coordination.
My hope is that with coyotes getting attention in Manhattan some real discussions will get started in the city this spring.
I was recently asked by a reporter if I thought the coyote should stay in Central Park. I answered that I didn't know for sure. I had heard good arguments supporting each of the various options.
I've collected some questions:
- What does the current research about coyotes in urban areas tell us?
- How does the raccoon rabies outbreak influence the health of the Central Park coyote?
- What are the legal ramifications for the Parks Department should they "protect" coyotes?
- If, like the Cook County study suggests, coyotes should be euthanized rather than moved when they become too accustomed to people, who in NYC is qualified and has the jurisdiction to make these choices?
- When is NYC too urban? Can Central Park support a coyote? What about a pack?
- What educational efforts are needed in areas like Riverdale where coyotes are now commonplace?
- Can a coyote have a satisfactory life in Central Park or is it cruel not to relocate it?
- If animals need to be relocated is there a more humane way to capture them then using a large police team?
- Does worrying about coyotes, which are considered vermin upstate, take staff time away from government workers who should be worried about more endangered species?
- What are the advantages of having coyotes in NYC?
- If we recognize that we are going to have a coyote population in NYC what rehabber support is going to be needed? And animal control staff? What do other urban areas have?
- What rat poisoning issues does having coyotes in the park raise? Is there a preferred poison to protect coyotes and is this also good for raptors?
- If after all these issues are discussed and coyotes are appropriate for NYC, how do we influence media and governmental agencies to educate the public about coyotes and how to interact appropriately?
- If coyotes are not appropriate for the city, how do we euthanize them or relocate them?
I'm looking forward to being better educated in the weeks to come. Right now, I have to admit, I'm just a naturalist photographer who has good instincts when it comes to tracking a single Central Park coyote.