Coyotes Come To The Big Apple

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Coyotes were first spotted in New York City in the 1990s. Now they are thought to be permanent residents of the Bronx, and have been seen in Queens and Manhattan. Wildlife biologist Mark Weckel, of the Mianus River Gorge Preserve, is documenting their immigration through camera traps in New York City parks.

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

Up next, Flora Lichtman is here with our Video Pick of the Week. Flora, you have something relevant.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: This time, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LICHTMAN: Yes, this time is about New York City's animal immigrants, the coyote. I was surprised to learn that coyotes are now found in the boroughs. In this video, we talk with Mark Weckel, who's of the Mianus River Gorge Preserve, and he's the head of this New York City coyote project. Although he said he doesn't have an official name yet. He's, like, Gotham's Furriest, maybe. But he - the way this project works is to understand coyotes and how they're coming into the city. And so they set up these camera traps, and the cameras take still photographs. And so he has some really fantastic footage of coyotes romping around parks in the Bronx.

FLATOW: Where - did they say where are these...

LICHTMAN: He did not disclose the exact location.

FLATOW: No fieldtrip for that. So you have on you - you took all this video, and you put it together in our Video Pick of the Week. And it's amazing. You can actually see the coyotes running...

LICHTMAN: And the pups

FLATOW: ...and the pups running around.

LICHTMAN: There's a pheasant in one of them, and it wasn't just...

FLATOW: There's a pheasant?

LICHTMAN: There's a pheasant in one of the videos, coyotes chasing skunks. Here's a good detail: to get the coyotes to go to the camera, to go in front of them, they bait the cameras with a fatty acid. And I asked Mark what this smells like, and he says it smells a lot like cheese. And apparently, that will just bring them right in. And so you see - the footage you see is these little coyotes like sniffing around the camera, I guess...

FLATOW: And then the skunks appearing...

LICHTMAN: ...looking for a free...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LICHTMAN: Right.

FLATOW: The skunks come out after the cheese also, probably.

LICHTMAN: Apparently. Yeah, I mean, I think not probably to see the coyotes. But I thought maybe we could ask some of our panelists here who are true experts on this subject, because I think what people may want to know - I mean, should like all the toy poodles in New York City...

FLATOW: Should be afraid?

LICHTMAN: ...be alarmed?

FLATOW: (Unintelligible) yeah. Sarah?

SARAH AUCOIN: Just like with all other wildlife, people just need to know how to act when they are aware that there's wildlife living in their park. So you want to keep your dogs on a leash at all times. That's best for the park, as well as good for the plantings and all of the other wildlife. And you want to keep a distance. I mean, people are very interested when they see a coyote. Some people are frightened, but many people try to approach, and that's really the wrong thing to do. We tell people to keep a distance. Watch from a distance. Don't try to feed them. Keep your dogs on a leash.

LICHTMAN: And I have one other quick question, because Mark said that they're headed toward Long Island, that this is probably good habitat for them. But how do they know where they're going?

FLATOW: Real estate prices are down. I think is what they...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

AUCOIN: Well, I don't know if that's actually true because we've - they're breeding here. So I don't know if they're headed anywhere.

LICHTMAN: Really?

AUCOIN: Yeah. So, I mean, some are headed, that's for sure.

JASON MUNSHI-SOUTH: Right. I don't know that they have directionality in mind. But often, the first coyotes that show up in a new area like Long Island are dispersing juveniles. So, you know, they've been living with their parents, maybe a small social group for a while. And then eventually they have to move on to find their own opportunities, you know?

FLATOW: The story of Long Island.

MUNSHI-SOUTH: Right. So...

FLATOW: Yeah. All right.

MUNSHI-SOUTH: ...they - that's why - especially when they end up in odd places, like really urban areas, on the streets and so forth. They're kind of young, confused (unintelligible).

FLATOW: Thank you, Flora. It's Flora's Video Pick of the Week up there in our website at sciencefriday.com. You can see - these are some a great video seeing these coyotes running around in the Bronx, right?

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