Thank You New York

It's wonderful when governmental agencies do something right.  Last week, city agencies rescued a frightened coyote from Tribeca, transported it to Animal Care and Control (ACC), and quickly released it into a more wild area of New York City.

The Parks Department, Animal Care and Control, the NYPD's Emergency Service Unit, New York State's DEC and the city Health Department all worked together to ensure that this animal was treated humanly. A young female coyote that got lost in Tribeca, and could easily have been killed in traffic, was relocated to a more suitable area to continue her life.

Behind the scenes, members of these organizations had already been meeting to discuss the proper handling of coyotes in the city and had developed a protocol to handle them humanly when relocation is needed.

Now that coyotes are breeding in the Bronx, we'll have more and more encounters with them in New York City.  It's not going to be perfect.  Both man and coyote will have to cooperate, and occasionally, an aggressive coyote habituated to humans may have to be destroyed.  But in general, with educational efforts, I think man and coyote have a good chance to leave together with minimal conflict in the Big Apple.

Smart Coyote

The coyote had trouble exiting the sanctuary tonight.  As it would leave, someone would end up walking on the path, and it would jump back into sanctuary.  We waited and waited, and of the four of us watching, two gave up. 

Just as I was going to give up, one of those who left, said, the coyote had already left and had been all over the southern end of the park from near the Essex House and up to the playground.  It either used the exit on the other side of the sanctuary or gave us the slip.

We were able to find it coming down a ridge west of the Center Drive.  It then went west down the path that separates the Heckscher Playground from the Heckscher Ballfields.  We then lost it.

For all that waiting, I got a few blurry pictures.  Who would have thought Screech-Owls would be easier to photograph than a much bigger coyote?

One nice thing that has happened over the last few weeks.  The dog walkers and other late night users of the park, don't seem to be worried about the coyote anymore.  Instead, they've gotten excited about trading stories of sightings.  I guess after six weeks, folks realize it just another small town boy or girl, who has moved to the Big Apple to begin their adult life.



Coyote Going North

The Central Park coyote left late this evening around 7:40 and when north.  It went over the hill and I lost track of it near the ice rink.  I asked a couple with two young children, if they had seen it.  The mother said, "Yes, it went that way." pointing north. 

The father said "Is it yours?" They had been so nice, I held my laughter until after I was out of earshot.

You might want to set the resolution of this video to HD, and make the video full screen.


Upcoming Talk On Coyotes, Sunday March 28th, 2 p.m.

The Wild Dog Foundation, Wildlife in Need of Rescue and the Urban Park Rangers are hosting a talk on coyotes later this month.  Given all of the coyotes in the Manhattan these past few weeks, it comes at a great time for those interested in these animals.  The details of the talk are:

New York City Coyotes: Return of Native Wildlife
Balancing Urban Ecology or Conflict in the Concrete Jungle

by The Wild Dog Foundation, Wildlife In Need Of Rescue & the Urban Park Rangers

Sunday, March 28th, 2 pm
Central Park North Meadow Recreation Center
(Enter the park at 97th and Central Park West and walk east or enter the park at 97th and 5th avenue and walk west.)

The wild coyote has a long history intertwined with man, present in Native American folklore through to today's modern news clippings. Please join Frank Vincenti of the Wild Dog Foundation, Bob and Cathy Horvath of Wildlife In Need of Rescue and the Urban Park Rangers, to further explore their fascinating ecology and potential in New York City. 

Quick Exit North For Central Park Coyote

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.

Coyote Outside The Hallett/Pond Area

Tonight, I got to follow the coyote outside of the Hallett Sanctuary area.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the coyote leave the southern exit of Hallett, jump onto the path and go up the stairs towards Sixth Avenue.  I couldn't see where the coyote went, but assumed it was up to Cop Cot, so I followed up that path.

In the winter from Cop Cot, you can see a good distance, and I was able to see the coyote south of the playground.  It moved around a great deal.  It spent most of its time trying to stay away from people.  The coyote must enjoy 1 a.m. when the park is closed!

While I was keeping track of it, a woman stopped in the road with a confused look on her face.  There was a loose black Lab. which I thought was hers.  I said "Is that your dog?"  She said "No, but there is a dog without an owner over there."  I said "That's a coyote."  She said, horrified, "Oh my God, it eats cats and dogs.  Do you want me to call 911?"  I said "No, the Parks Department already knows it's here." 

For at least five minutes, I kept asking myself who thinks there are pet cats in Central Park?  Did she think the wealthy on Central Park West and Fifth Avenue have their doorman put their cats out at night?










More Coyote Images…

The Coyote was active early Monday evening, coming down to the north fence but retreating before even leaving Hallett.  The noise from the skating rink must have been too much for it.

Later in the evening, the Coyote played on the ice.  The Coyote made a few passes over the ice and at one point went onto the southern most path of the park.  Scared by some people it made a gigantic leap over the fences and shrubs to get back onto the ice.

Here are a few photographs from the evening and a very short slow motion clip.  This Coyote is hard to photograph in the dark!





Coyote on Sunday

The Central Park Coyote was hard to spot over the last few days.  On Friday, we only saw footprints in the fresh snow.  On Saturday, I didn't see it.

On Sunday, I only saw it for only a few minutes.  It exited the hole in the northern section of the Hallett Nature Sanctuary fence and headed toward the west around 6:45 p.m.  The Coyote got spooked by some people, so it immediately came back to Hallett and then finally left for good about five minutes later.






Coyote In The Snow

I saw the Coyote for only a few minutes on Thursday evening while the weather switched between snow and rain.  The Coyote certainly does not like being near people.  If it sees you looking in its direction, it instantly moves away.  This bodes well for the Coyote.  If it can stay out of people's way, there should be no need to remove it from the park.

I'm always surprised when people don't expect there to be nature in New York City.  Given the expansion of Coyotes in the eastern United States, it was only a mater of time before we got another one wandering into Central Park.

If I look at my ancestors in America, they started as rural farmers, then moved to towns and then cities.  (Ironically my first ancestors, which date back from the 1640s, were from what is now Brooklyn.) The towns protected them from wild animals and as they moved to cities there was this added artificial concept of a "man-made world", separate from the natural world.

The natural world never really left, but an illusion was created that nature had been tamed, as though somehow animals were as controlled as the city's landscaped gardens.

When we have a Red-tailed Nest (the Trump Parc nest was only 300 yards from the Coyote), a Wild Turkey or a Great Horned Owl in the city, it makes news. While the wild animals captivate us, what really seems to excite us is the realization that despite our best efforts to create a "man-made world", we're still really living in the "natural world".








Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

My photos and videos of the Central Park Coyote have generated lots of email.  They have mostly been about what to do with the Coyote. The emails I've gotten have basically fallen into three categories, Shoot It, Move It or Leave It.

An interesting article in Scientific American (just for full disclosure, a division of the company I work for) details recent studies of Coyote populations in suburban and urban areas.  It turns out they aren't so bad, if you don't feed them or leave your pets outdoors.

A very nice PDF has been created by the Cook County Coyote Project.  It explains the results of an extensive study of the Chicago area population of Coyotes by Dr. Stanley Gehrt of The Ohio State University.

As wild mammals and raptors reclaim our urban areas, they bring with them new urban wildlife management issues.  It's fascinating to see how unprepared our local governments are for these arrivals.

I went looking for the Coyote tonight and missed seeing it.  However, others did see it.  There are two ends of the Hallett Sanctuary fence.  One end is near Gapstow bridge.  The other end is near Sixth Avenue and the Coyote can exit by walking over a small dam without getting wet.  I had staked out the wrong end of the fence tonight!

Update: Robert Sullivan (author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants) wrote a nice piece for the Intelligencer column of the March 8th issue of New York Magazine about this evening. 

Don't Feed The Coyote!

Coyote Continues In Central Park

I'm back from vacation and went by The Pond in the southeast corner of the park after dark looking for the Coyote.  Other than my sighting up at The Pool, most of the other sightings have been from this location.   The Pond is steps away from The Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf Goodman and the flagship NYC Apple store.

To the west of The Pond is Hallett Nature Sanctuary.  This is an area free of the presence of dogs and humans. It would be a perfect place for the Coyote to sleep during the day and was the favorite spot of the 2006 Coyote, Hal.

As luck would have it, I had chosen the right spot and time.  The Coyote came out onto the ice four times.  It played with a bottle, went after some ducks, and eventually disappeared.  It seemed quite shy, hiding in the sanctuary between forays onto the ice.

I frown on giving wild animals or birds names.  But if this new Coyote needs a name, rather than giving it a name like Hal II or Hal Jr., I vote for Urbana as an homage to Arthur C. Clarke and 2001.  It retains a reference to Hal(lett) and includes Urban in the name.










Central Park Coyote

A coyote has been seen in Central Park this week.  Tonight, it wandered across the ice of The Pool, which is in the northwest corner of the park up at 102nd Street east of Central Park West.

There were Park Enforcement Police chasing after it.  Given how they were chasing the coyote (from their cars!), it should stay free for quite awhile.


Rolling around in the snow on top of the ice covered waters of The Pool.