Earlier this year, a coyote was found and captured by police on the Upper West Side. Two weeks later, another one was spotted in Stuyvesant Town, where many NYU students live. Coyote sightings in New York City, while somewhat rare, have become more frequent in recent years. Although sightings in the streets of Manhattan tend to garner the most media attention, most of the city’s coyotes reside in parks in the north Bronx and near suburban communities. Ecologists at the City University of New York suggested that the animals migrated from eastern Canada via the Adirondack Mountains, making their way south from upstate New York. As their numbers increase, a strategy must be developed to deal with urban coyotes in the context of city life.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation hosted a workshop on Saturday called “Living with Urban Coyotes,” with the goal of educating people about these fascinating creatures and how to coexist with them. More public education like this is necessary if we want to ensure a healthy coexistence with our unlikely neighbors.
It is important for people to know what and what not to do upon
encountering an urban coyote. Feeding it, for instance, is a bad idea because it undoes coyotes’, and other animals, natural guardedness towards humans. By associating humans with food, the wild animals become more comfortable in approaching, and possibly hurting, reluctant humans. Residents of New York suburbs that are inhabited by coyotes must understand the proper ways to handle trash, outdoor pets and other things that may attract coyotes to their backyards. In general, widespread knowledge of coyote etiquette will make coexistence safer for both humans and coyotes.
Education can also eliminate fear. Stories of coyotes stalking the streets of Lower Manhattan incite mass hysteria when, in reality, coyotes are relatively harmless creatures. An unprovoked coyote will not go out of its way to attack people. In fact, people are far more likely to be injured by a domestic dog than by a coyote. Chicago’s downtown area is home to thousands of coyotes, which are remarkably adept at avoiding detection and hardly impede upon city life. While the chances of downtown Manhattan becoming a coyote hotspot are slim to none, urban life would likely continue as normal in such a situation, as long as people can govern their gut reactions. The idea of wild animals lurking in a cosmopolitan city may seem terrifying and absurd, but it does not have to be.
As urban wildlife proliferates and interactions with humans increase, it is ever more necessary to support the city’s ecological wealth, and the continuation and expansion of workshops is critical. It can demonstrate to city folks that New York’s modern metropolis is not incompatible with the wild.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 23 print edition. Email Zahra Haque at firstname.lastname@example.org.