COYOTE SIGHTINGS SURGE

Coyote sightings are on the rise in New York State. We’ll tell you why and what we’re learning about these wily animals.

Aired on November 13, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> THE LEGENDARY WARREN Z, HOW ABOUT THE COYOTES OF NEW YORK, SPOTTED IN NEW YORK CITY PARKS, ON ROOFTOPS, ON THE STREETS, COYOTES HAVE MADE IT CLEAR THEY ARE NOW HERE IN THE CITY, AND APPARENTLY HERE TO STAY.

A PILOT PROJECT IS KEEPING TRACK OF THE SHY YET CLEVER CREATURE AS THEY NAVIGATE AND TAKE A BITE OF THE BIG APPLE AS URBANIZATION ENCROACHES ON THEIR HABITAT.

AS PART OF OUR ONGOING SERIES, PERIL IN PROMISE, WE TAKE A LOOK AT HOW NEW YORKERS AND COYOTES CAN COEXIST.

JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT THIS IS MARK WECKEL, THE COFOUNDER OF GOTHAM COYOTE PROJECT, THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF YOUTH INITIATIVES AT THE NATIONAL HISTORY PARK.

THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

TALK ABOUT THE PROJECT FIRST, BEFORE WE GET INTO THE SPECIFICS, HOW DID THE PROJECT COME TO BE AND WHAT DOES IT FOCUS ON?

GOTHAM COYOTE STARTED SEVEN YEARS AGO WITH A COLLABORATION OF RESEARCHERS, EDUCATORS, AND STUDENTS FROM NEW YORK CITY WORKING TOGETHER TO UNDERSTAND THESE NEW CRITTERS, COYOTES THAT HAVE RECENTLY ARRIVED IN NEW YORK CITY.

EXPLAIN TO ME WHY IT IS NOW WE'RE STARTING TO SEE, AND WE HAVE STARTED FOR A WHILE, THAT WE'RE STARTING TO SEE COYOTES, ESSENTIALLY INSERTING THEMSELVES INTO THE NEW YORK CITY ENVIRONMENT.

SO NEW YORK CITY IS ALMOST A LITTLE LATE TO THE GAME.

THEY HAVE BEEN IN CITIES SUCH AS BOSTON AND TORONTO FOR DECADES AND IT'S PART OF A MUCH LARGER STORY THAT AS THE COYOTES, WE THINK OF IT AS AN ANIMAL OF THE WEST.

WE THINK OF COYOTE AND THE ROAD RUNNER AND IN MANY WAYS IT IS A SYMBOL OF THE WILDERNESS.

OVER THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS, IT HAS BEEN EXPANDING ITS RANGE EAST AND ABOUT 1995 WAS THE FIRST TIME WE ACTUALLY SAW A COYOTE IN NEW YORK CITY.

HOW ARE THEY ABLE TO MAKE A LIVING IN WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT, IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW MORE ABOUT IT, WOULD BE SUCH A FOREIGN ENVIRONMENT TO THEM.

GOTHAM COYOTE, ONE TO GET YOU TO LISTEN BUT COYOTES IN NEW YORK CITY, THEY ARE IN THE NATURAL AREAS.

NEW YORK CITY IS LUCKY TO HAVE 19% OF LAND BE PARKLAND, AND THERE ARE THESE NATURAL SPACES, WOODLANDS, BRUSHY HABITATS AND FIELDS WHERE MOST OF OUR COYOTES CALL HOME, SO WHEN YOU'RE ACTUALLY WITH US IN THE FIELD, IF WE WERE TO TAKE YOU OUT TO SHOW YOU SOME OF OUR CAMERA TRACKS THAT WE USE TO MONITOR COYOTES, YOU WOULDN'T KNOW NECESSARILY THAT YOU WERE IN THE BRONX.

WE'RE DEEP IN THE FOREST OR DEEP IN THE FIELDS SO FOR THE MOST PART, A COYOTE IN NEW YORK CITY IS BEHAVING, ALMOST LIKE A COYOTE YOU WOULD FIND IN MORE RURAL ENVIRONMENTS.

IT'S EATING NATURAL THINGS SUCH AS SMALL MAMMALS OR RABBITS AND IT'S DOING SO IN OUR URBAN METROPOLIS BY AVOIDING US.

IT'S ACTIVE IN PARKS WHEN WE AREN'T.

SO IT'S THIS KIND OF INTERESTING MIX OF WHERE THEY CAN LIVE SIDE BY SIDE WITH US, BUT THE SECRET TO THAT SKUCCESS IS TO AVOID US AT ALL COSTS.

WHAT ABOUT US THEM, IS THERE A DANGER, COYOTES, THAT SOUNDS SCARY.

TOTALLY, AND THE REASON WE STARTED THIS PROJECT REALLY IS TO MAKE THE UNFAMILIAR, FAMILIAR.

AND THAT'S THE REASON WHY WE DO OUR RESEARCH AND OUR EDUCATION.

99% OF NEW YORKERS WILL GO THEIR WHOLE LIFE NEVER SEEING A COYOTE.

I HAVE BEEN STUDYING FOR THE PAST DECADE, I HAVE ONLY SEEN ONE IN NEW YORK CITY WITH MY OWN EYES.

REALLY?

YES.

I WONDER IF PEOPLE WOULD RECOGNIZE THEM AS COYOTES IF THEY CAME ACROSS THEM.

AT A DISTANCE, IT PERHAPS LOOKS LIKE A SMALL DOG.

WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A 35 TO 45 POUND ANIMAL, KIND OF A TAWNY COAT.

IT COULD LOOK LIKE A DNY PEOPLE MAY HAVE THOUGHT THEY SAW A DOG.

WE HAVE TO GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO GET THE DATA ON A COYOTE.

WE HAVE TO PUT OUT A CAMERA TRAP, SIMILAR TO ONE IN YOUR PHONE, TRIGGERED BY THE MOVEMENT OF A WARM BODIED ANIMAL.

WE HAVE TO LEAVE IT OUT TWO MONTHS AT A TIME, SIMPLY TO GET A SINGLE PHOTOGRAPH.

THEY'RE THAT ELUSIVE.

THEY'RE THAT ELUSIVE.

WE'LL PICK UP THEIR SCAT, POOP, FECES TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THAT DAY EATING AND EXTRACT THEIR DNA TO FIGURE OUT WHO THAT COYOTE WAS, HOW MANY THERE MIGHT BE, BUT WE HAVE TO GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO FIND THAT SCAT.

THESE ARE NOT ANIMALS THAT WHEN YOU GO THROUGH A PARK, YOU SEE THE PIGEONS, THE SQUIRRELS, THAT'S THE WILDLIFE MOST NEW YORKERS WILL ENCOUNTER.

IT'S CALLED GOTHAM COYOTE, BUT WE STUDY BRONX COYOTES, THAT'S THE BOROUGH WHERE WE FIND COYOTES.

IS THAT SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE ENVIRONMENT, THERE ARE MORE PLACES THERE THAT THEY CAN COME TO, AND NOT JUST EXIST BUT THRIVE?

IT'S ALMOST JUST THE FIRST STOP.

IT'S OUR ONLY MAINLAND BOROUGH.

SO GETTING THERE FROM WEST CHESTER WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN SINCE THE 70s IS QUITE EASY.

DON'T HAVE TO TAKE A BRIDGE OR A TUNNEL.

DON'T HAVE TO TAKE A BRIDGE OR TUNNEL.

IT'S GREEN AND WELL CONNECTED, EVEN THE EAST BRONX WATER FRONT HAS BEAUTIFUL PARKS ALONG IT, AND THEY HAVE NATURAL AREAS WHERE A COYOTE CAN HUNT, RAISE PUPS, ALL WITH MINIMIZING CONTACT WITH PEOPLE.

SO LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, BOTTOM LINE.

WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT COYOTES?

WHAT'S IMPORTANT FOR THEM TO UNDERSTAND.

I THINK IT HAS TO START WITH KNOWING THEY'RE HERE.

IT CAN'T BE A SECRET.

I DON'T BLAME SOMEONE FOR HEARING ABOUT AN ICON OF WILDERNESS.

AN ICON OF THE WEST IN NEW YORK CITY, SEEMS LIKE A CONTRADICTION.

SEEMS LIKE SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE SCARY.

THROUGH OUR WORK, FINDING OUT ABOUT THEIR ECOLOGY AND SPREADING AND LEARNING AND TEACHING PEOPLE ABOUT THIS, YOU CAN UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT IT AND COME TO FEAR A LOT LESS.

I WOULD SAY AT THE VERY LEAST AN APPRECIATION, MAKING A LIVING FOR ANYONE IN NEW YORK CITY IS TOUGH, I'M A NEW YORKER MYSELF, BORN AND RAISED AND EQUALLY TOUGH AS A COYOTE.

LEARNING ABOUT IT ALSO WILL AT THE SAME TIME LET US SEE OUR CITY AS NATURE.

AND THAT'S A NICE THING TO REMEMBER, AS YOU SAID IN THE VERY BEGINNING HOW MUCH OF OUR CITY IS INDEED GREENERY, AND NOT WHAT WE THINK OF AS THE CONCRETE JUNGLE.

A LITTLE BIT INSPIRATIONAL.

MARK, IT'S FACE NATING, WHAT YOU'RE DOING -- FASCINATING, JUST WHAT YOU'RE DOING IS SO INTERESTING AND COMPELLING, IN HELPING UNDERSTAND OUR ENVIRONMENT BETTER.

GREAT TO THAT TO YOU.

COME BACK SOON BE WELL.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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