BY GERRY RISING
A RARELY SEEN NOCTURNAL
PREDATOR IS MOVING INTO
SUBURBS AND CITIES
IN PREPARING THIS COLUMN, I CAME ACROSS AN INTERESTING FACT: the
coyote arrived in New York State at about the same time that I did, in the 1920s. And, as
I did, it found a home here. Unlike me, however, the coyote was not welcomed. Bounties
were offered to stop its spread until 1972, when it was realized that the species was here
to stay, and the bounties were withdrawn.
Since 1976, the coyote has been
“protected” as a game species, meaning
coyote killing was restricted to animals
doing damage or taken during open
hunting and trapping seasons. Today, the
New York State Department of Wildlife
Conservation reports that there are about
30,000 coyotes here. The department also
reports that 30,000 New Yorkers hunt
coyotes and 3,000 trap them: life as a
coyote is not easy.
Does that coyote population surprise
you? Even though I have long known
about their success here, it continues to
surprise me, because I have seen exactly
one New York coyote in a lifetime of
outdoor hiking and bird watching. There
is, of course, a reason for this. Although
they are occasionally seen in daytime,
they are more active at night.
Coyotes are territorial; a pair defends
an area of two to fifteen square miles.
Unlike wolves, whose packs include many
adults, coyote packs are family groups
including only that year’s pups born in
March and April.
But get ready. Widespread in rural
areas, coyotes are now invading suburbs
and even cities. You may have even
already seen one without realizing it.
Although they weigh much less, coyotes
look very much like German shepherds,
though their thick fur makes this
difference less evident. They also have
long bushy tails, which they usually carry
Today, most people are blocked off
from nocturnal wildlife, thanks to winter
insulation and summer air conditioning.
If a coyote family lives near you, this
may be a blessing, because they tend to
howl at night. An individual coyote may
simply bark every few seconds, but, when
there is group interaction, the howling
and screeching can be as irritating as
fingernails on a blackboard. The only
nighttime sound I consider more irritating