Sometimes what doesn’t happen is news. Take coyotes, for example. Before 2010, few residents in lower Westchester paid much attention to coyotes as a threat to humans. Yes, there had been occasional articles about coyotes attacking unattended dogs at night; and in 2006 the media reported on a Cornell scientist who had begun a research project on the scope and range of coyote encounters in Westchester.
By Bill Lawyer
Sometimes what doesn’t happen is news.
Before 2010, few residents in lower Westchester paid much attention to coyotes as a threat to humans. Yes, there had been occasional articles about coyotes attacking unattended dogs at night; and in 2006 the media reported on a Cornell scientist who had begun a research project on the scope and range of coyote encounters in Westchester.
But in 2010, Rye and Rye Brook became the epicenter of attacks by coyotes on people. Two children in Rye were attacked. In response, Rye and surrounding communities held forums, with speakers from the police, the New York DEC, and various experts dealing on managing or trapping coyotes. After the summer incidents, the police carried out special patrols in areas where coyotes had been sighted. One rabid coyote was killed in Rye Brook.
And then, things quieted down.
Rye Police Commissioner William Connors tallied up the department’s sighting/encounter logs for the past year and found that there were no instances of aggressive behavior for all of 2011. In fact, there were only 25 sightings the entire year. January, June, and July had the highest number – four each. Sightings occurred in Greenhaven and Indian Village, and on Manursing Island and North Street.
The closest potentially aggressive incident was reported by a person walking his dog at Rye Golf Club in December. “Several coyotes started following him for a while but then turned and ran away,” Mr. Connors recounted.
Because there were no coyote attacks, or incidents of threatening behavior, the DEC did not give the Rye Police a permit to trap or kill coyotes last year.
Kevin Clarke, a wildlife biologist with the DEC New Paltz office, thinks that public information campaigns may explain in part why there were fewer encounters. Rye residents are now more attentive to supervising their children and pets when outside, particularly in areas suspected of being “coyote territory”.
And, they are now less likely to leave pet food or bird seed out on the ground. He pointed out that putting food out for deer, rabbits, or other wildlife can backfire in luring coyotes to prey on these animals.
Mr. Clarke continues to instruct residents to be extremely aggressive with the animal. “Throwing rocks or sticks and keeping a coffee can near windows and doors can help scare the coyote. If in reach, from a shielded area, use pepper spray. Be as aggressive as you can because just opening your window and yelling ‘Get out of here,’ to a coyote is going to do absolutely nothing.”
Mr. Clarke noted that in Westchester County as a whole, there were more aggressive encounters in 2011 (eight) than 2010 (five).
Commissioner Connors said, that despite the lack of aggressive incidents in 2011, people need to recognize that “coyotes are part of the landscape.”
A Coyote Fact Sheet is available on the City’s website.