My first encounter with a coyote was in California years ago, while on a hike with my dad. He was trotting along the side of the road, minding his own business; he seemed rather shy. My last sighting was in Central Park a few years ago. I was sitting a park bench at lunchtime and saw one in the distance, in the forested area of the park. First I thought it was a wolf by his size, but then I read about the coyote presence in Central Park, and “coywolves,” a hybrid of the two animals.
This year they hit Bergen County (my county), New Jersey. A man walking his dog was bitten on the ankle by an aggressive coyote in Norwood. The animal was rabid and had to be killed; another was found dead in a trap on Sunday. Three dens were discovered in Frank and Joanne Spadaccinia’s yard.
As their populations rise, they move from forest to suburb to city where there are fewer predators and more food. They have been spotted on the Upper West Side, in the Bronx, Chelsea and Battery Park, but seem to avoid Long Island.
Mark Weckel, a Brooklyn-born conservation scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, who co-founded the Gotham Coyote Project, said they have moved east as logging opened a path for them and their predators died off.
“Local extinction of the eastern wolf and puma opened up a niche for coyotes,” said Weckel. “Once they got here, they adapted. That’s the secret to their success.”
No predators, more coyotes. Makes sense. Weckel said, that despite the attack in Norwood, NJ, coyotes are generally shy animals that avoid human contact.
So let’s try to get along with them. The Parks Department set up a website with facts about our new friends, called “Living with Coyotes in New York City.”
I think we can do it, New York. We are known as the “melting pot,” a culturally and ethnically diverse mélange of a town, open to new ideas and people. Let’s welcome these former prairie denizens, the new kids on the block.