Exclusive: City Studying the Wild Dog Population on the West Coast of Staten Island
STATEN ISLAND, NY – The New York City Parks Department is investigating whether there are coyotes inhabiting the west coast of the borough.
Photos and videos of predatory canines – some more identifiable than others – have sparked both curiosity and turmoil on social media, while some wildlife experts say they’re not surprised.
“Everyone lives with coyotes, it’s a wonderful part of the world,” said William McShea, wildlife ecologist at the Smithsonian Institution.
McShea’s comments came on Nov. 19 at a forest ecology forum held at the College of Staten Island. The event was organized in the light of scientific data showing that the borough’s forests face a serious threat of overgrazing and invasive species.
Across the city, coyote sightings have increased in recent years, both in outlying neighborhoods and in Manhattan, particularly in Central Park.
“They will eat a few (fawns)… they’re good for controlling small rodents, ”McShea said.
While its assessment may indicate that coyotes are useful in controlling deer populations – a persistent wildlife problem in the borough – a recent study by the State Department of Environmental Conservation found that it did not was not the case.
In 2012, after a possible coyote sighting was reported to Fresh Kills, Dr. Paul D. Curtis, wildlife specialist and co-principal investigator of the New York Suburban Coyote Study, told Advance that they could constitute a danger.
“Coyotes can be dangerous to humans and pets, and they should be treated with respect,” he said at the time. “The little dogs [15 pounds] are most at risk. Coyotes will kill dogs in home defense. Very aggressive coyotes even attempted to kill small dogs while the owner was on the other end of a leash.
RED FOX OBSERVATIONS
One predator that has been confirmed to live in the borough are red foxes, a spokeswoman for the city’s parks department said on Wednesday.
A video of a fox chasing a chicken at night on Chelsea Road in Travis was recently submitted to the Advance, while photos of foxes – alive and dead – at Fresh Kills Park and on the West Shore Expressway, respectively, have has been touring in recent months on social networks.
Fresh Kills Park has been transformed from landfill to park in recent years; a large part closed to the public.
“It is not uncommon to see (foxes) in urban natural areas, especially as these natural areas are restored and support healthy ecosystems,” the parks department spokeswoman said.
Recent sightings of what some feared to be wild animals have left some residents concerned.
In one case, an animal was seen dragging a fawn carcass from the pavement to Travis. Its owner has since declared the animal to be a companion dog.
AUTHORITIES: LOOK BUT DO NOT APPROACH
Either way, the fact remains that there are canine predators lurking.
Speaking in response to McShea’s assessment of coyotes at the Nov. 19 Wildlife Forum, Borough President James Oddo expressed concern about his two small dogs at home.
McShea said, “Keep them at night.”
If a resident encounters wild animals, they are asked to “respect them the same as any other New Yorker and allow them plenty of space,” the parks department spokeswoman said.
Residents are urged to report wildlife sightings to the WildlifeNYC website and to call 911 only if there is an obvious threat to public safety.