Coyotes in Our Backyard
By Tom McDermott
Anyone expecting a simple solution to Rye’s coyote population at the May 9 City Council most likely came away disappointed. But what the Council and attendees did get was a concise and pointed “Coyote 101” talk by Kevin Clarke, a wildlife biologist from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Clarke reminisced about his last visit to Rye in 2010, when perhaps 200 people and many news cameras were present to discuss what to do in the aftermath of a young Rye boy being bitten by a coyote. Since then, there have been no reported coyote attacks on humans in Rye, despite many, many logged sitings of the animals, a number of them recently in the vicinity of Milton School.
According to Clarke, we need to get used to the fact that coyotes are here to stay. We also need to acknowledge that many coyotes are used to being around humans and have lost much of their fear. Fortunately, Clarke says that the great majority of coyotes are ones exhibiting normal behavior; it may take a bit more now to scare them off property and away from small dogs and children, but we can learn methods to make them keep away. Clarke said the few more threatening animals may need to be removed, or, in extreme cases, safely dispatched.
In general, Clarke and the DEC favor “hazing”, which has to be done uniformly throughout a community in order to be effective. Residents need to make coyotes feel very uncomfortable around humans. Just “being big” may not work anymore. There may need to be more chasing, and spraying hoses. Invisible fences for dogs, unfortunately, trap the potential prey in a confined area. Clarke says those fences may have to go. The DEC recommends 6-foot fences to protect pets. Also, he recommends removing bird feeders which attract rodents, which attract coyotes.
What about the benefits of coyotes culling the deer population? Clarke stated that coyotes concentrate on fawns during breeding season, and almost never on large animals. He has never seen a deer population effectively reduced by coyotes in his 15 years at the DEC. As for the DEC removing coyotes further “upstate” and away from densely populated areas – they don’t do it. If Rye residents identify an ongoing problem with coyotes which become a threat, the DEC can assist in removal of those particular animals with non-lethal traps.
Mayor Josh Cohn requested that Clarke supply the City with brochures to help inform residents. Information will soon be available on the City’s website.
DEC wildlife biologist Kevin Clarke at City Hall