No Regrets, Coyote

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.

Bunny Killer

Sylvester twisting

(photo: Erica Herd)

Our cat Desmond is a killer. I’m using a pseudonym to protect him from retribution. He can’t help himself: cats are natural predators. He’s originally from Florida and is an indoor/outdoor cat. We don’t know how he ended up in New Jersey, but we adopted him from Petco in Paramus in 2011. He was about 4 years old at the time.

Desmond is quite meek for a cat of his size and stature–a Norwegian Forest. He is the feline equivalent of Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter books, a gentle giant. So gentle that he cowered at the sight of a large bunny in our backyard. Lorin referred to this bunny as “The General” from Watership Down. Perhaps The General terrorized Desmond when we weren’t around. Our town is teeming with bunnies: I saw four huddled around a truck in the parking lot near the bus stop yesterday. You never know what they’re up to.

The General
The General (google)

Desmond patrols at night: he guards our property and keeps other cats away. It took him a while to adjust to us. The sign that he cared came in the form of gifts: a dead bird at the back doorstep was the first. Two more birds followed. For cats, dead prey on doorstep = love. He’s bringing us dinner. Then came the baby bunny. It wasn’t bloody, so perhaps it died of a heart attack after he chased him. We’ll never know. We felt kind of bad about it, but thanked Desmond and patted him on the head. Not wanting to appear ungracious, we let him inside before wrapping the bunny in a plastic Shoprite bag and depositing his remains in the trash.

Last week another baby bunny was deposited, but this one was missing its head and one arm! Is Desmond developing a taste for blood? Did he eat the head and arm or did they become dislodged as he was playing with the bunny? Perhaps he is exacting revenge on the Leporidae community for being humiliated by The General, or realizing there is an overpopulation, he might instinctively be culling the herd.

You may judge us for harboring a bunny killer, but he is only doing as nature intended. Do not judge us or our feline companion too harshly; however, if you are out to punish someone, punish us. We are his caretakers, and we take responsibility for his actions . . . to a certain degree. Nature dictates the rest.

Have you looked in your backyard lately? Rabbits are on the rise.