For immediate release
in history makes it to Central Park
supports the relocation efforts by the New York City Department of Parks
& Recreation; says situation is representative of the challenges of
protecting nature urbanizing regions.
By Katherine Mertes, David Burg, and Stefan Ekernas
NEW YORK, March 22
WildMetro supports the actions of the New York City Department
of Parks and Recreation in removing Hal the coyote from Central
Park. Central Park is not a safe or appropriate place for coyotes,
said Katherine Mertes, WildMetro Research Coordinator. The Parks
isolation from other natural areas, the presence of heavy road traffic,
and the high level of human use make it a dangerous and inhospitable setting
for a large predator. That coyotes are able to survive in the unique conditions
created by urban development is testimony to the persistence and resilience
of nature. However, coyotes inhabiting urbanized areas in the Northeast
have repeatedly contracted diseases, keeping urban populations at low
levels and raising questions about human health risks. Considering these
concerns, the NYC Parks Departments actions were both responsible
Though Central Park
may not be a suitable place for coyotes, the species seems to be persisting
in the Bronx and nearby suburban areas. Hals appearance is an opportunity
to recognize New York Citys potential to support wildlife, and also
to discuss the means open space protection and natural area management
necessary to ensure that city natural areas will continue to attract
and harbor wild species. WildMetro hopes that the presence, however brief,
of animals like Hal in central Manhattan will encourage all New Yorkers
to value the wonderful wildlife that abounds in New York City.
Hal is probably a
teenage coyote, in the stage of life when males leave their
parents or packs home range and travel sometimes incredibly
long distances in search of a territory to call their own. It is
encouraging that a coyote seemed to regard Central Park as suitable habitat
for his new home.
Even though Hal seems
to be a particularly adventurous coyote, there are no reports of any aggressive
interactions between him and park-goers. While it is prudent to view coyotes
as potentially dangerous animals, coyotes approach people very infrequently,
usually only after they have been repeatedly fed by humans.
of coyotes in the Northeast have discussed the potential repercussions
of a top predator returning to the region. WildMetro researchers have
found atypically high densities of small mammal species (like mice and
voles) in areas in and around New York City. At extremely high densities,
small mammal species can suppress plant regeneration, and they can be
reservoirs for numerous diseases that can be passed from animals to humans.
With the return of small mammal predators, their large numbers may be
reduced, potentially decreasing the risk of disease exposure and reducing
pressure on plant communities.
Coyotes were not
reported from New York state until 1925, when human extirpation of the
gray wolf and human-caused changes in the landscape allowed the species
to expand eastward. It was not until the 1990s, however, that coyotes
migrated into New York City. Humans continue to develop and change the
landscape in myriad ways, making it likely that wildlife events like todays
will only become more frequent. More and more, traditional wilderness
species like Pale Male the red-tailed hawk, Otis (the coyote captured
in Central Park in 1999), and Hal will live in and access the city.
With reasonable urban conservation policies like those WildMetro advocates,
New Yorkers will find that living with wildlife is not only possible,
but ultimately rewarding.