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Central Park Coyote Faces Death Despite Offer of Reprieve

The coyote that’s been living discreetly in Central Park for the last month is now on wildlife officialshitlist. Fearing rabies, the Department of Environmental Conservation is trying to trap the coyote and euthanize it, wildlife rehabilitators familiar with the case say. That’s too bad because local rehabbers have offered an alternative: They’re willing to put the coyote in the standard 10-day quarantine, then find a suitable release site outside the city.

In the past, the DEC has trapped coyotes and at least made an effort to release them. (Hal, the 2006 coyote, died from stress, rat poison and heartworm, according to the necropsy.) What’s different this time is there is widespread rabies in the raccoon population in upper Manhattan, especially the north woods of Central Park, where the coyote trots after spending the day sleeping in the isolated Hallett Nature Preserve near 57th Street and 6th Avenue.

[youtube=]These animals aren’t exactly making a reappearance in Manhattan after being vanquished for centuries. They are a slightly different species than ever lived here before; they aren’t really coyotes, which live out west, but coywolves–a hybrid of versatile, small western coyotes and the gray wolves that were hunted out of the east. Jon Way, a biologist at Eastern Coyote Research, is pushing for them to be classified as a native species since they weren’t introduced by humans and are the natural product of canines evolving to survive in the habitat altered by humans.

Coywolves are now established across the eastern U.S., where they are enjoyed by some and hunted as invasive pests without limit by others. Way believes they could be the answer to the deer overpopulation problem in a way larger, warier wolves could never be. But even though coyotes have been showing up in New York City since at least 2004, there’s no plan to manage them. Packs live freely in Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay Park. The DEC is trying to catch one that shows up regularly in a Jamaica, Queens, housing project. (Long Island, of which Queens is a part, is so far the only place in the eastern U.S. not colonized by coywolves.)

This coywolf is in a complicated situation even if he’s captured, safely handled, and cleared of rabies. He can’t be released in the city. The DEC doesn’t want him released into a park or a distant one of their districts (because he could spread disease). If he’s released upstate, someone will likely just shoot him. One coyote was successfully released onto private land upstate and this is the coyote’s best shot. DEC is not dead set–yet–on euthanizing the coyote. They’re only working to catch him weekdays. If he gets put in an appropriate rehabber’s care, he may be let be. Meanwhile, public support for the coyote may grow now that New York magazine has covered him. New Yorkers may not want a coyote hanging around Sheep Meadow, but they don’t want him shot for nothing, either.

Where to See Wild Animals Around New York City

Read more about coywolves
Read about the coywolf from its original tracker, Urban Hawks

Check out the Eastern Coyote Research center

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2 comments to Central Park Coyote Faces Death Despite Offer of Reprieve

  • Christopher

    I’m tired of seeing the misuse of the term Euthanasia. It is defined as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”

    Killing an animal that is neither sick nor injured because the DEC can’t be bothered to find out whether it actually has rabies is just an act of barbarism, not an act of mercy. The DEC’s job is to conserve, not to destroy isn’t it? The DEC should do the right thing and allow the rehabilitators give this coywolf a fair chance.

  • Raymond Ho, FCD

    It’s really sad that the “best” resort from DEC is to euthanize the animal. Hopefully a zoo can take him in or something.