Let the Wily Go Wild?

Cities across the country have learned to live with coyotes. Why not New York?

January 14, 2015

A three-hour police chase through the streets of New York City Saturday night ended with the officers apprehending a “feisty” predator. The perpetrator, a coyote, didn’t exactly do anything wrong—just roaming around, taking in the sights—but the NYPD darted her with a tranquilizer all the same. Authorities plan to release her to a slightly less populated area.

This isn’t the first coyote to venture into the Big Apple. Over the years, visiting canids have been pursued by helicopters in Central Park, and others have found permanent homes at the Queens Zoo. But should more coyotes traipse into America’s largest city, some wildlife advocates think officials should reconsider shipping them out to the country.

Chicago, for instance, has roughly 2,000 coyotes. But for the most part, authorities there let the predators be, deeming the canines residents, albeit wild ones. And according to Andrew Wetzler, the land and wildlife program director for NRDC (which publishes Earthwire), Chicago’s urban environs are better for it.

Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Photo: Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

For over a decade, researchers at the Cook County Coyote Project have been studying the growing coyote population in the Windy City. What they’ve found is that these furry predators love to eat rats and mice, don’t rummage through garbage like other urban wildlife, and help boost migratory bird populations by keeping feral cats out of parks. And despite their reputation, the stealthy canines very rarely prey upon pets and almost never attack humans.

“Basically, if Chicago can have dozens of coyotes living downtown, then there’s no reason Manhattan can’t host a few in its many large parks” says Wetzler. “It would be good for the city.”

Granted, officials may have to remove the occasional problem coyote that eats Fluffy or Spot, or appears to be sick, but if residents of Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and Portland can learn to live with a few predators in their midst, New Yorkers can, too. Isn’t that wild?

Photo: Danielle

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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