Coyote hybrids have been sighted in Nanuet, Stony Point, Valley Cottage, Nyack, Congers, New City, and Pomona. According to Cornell University, 20-30K live in NY State and roughly 20 live in the NYC metro area, leaving only Long Island and Brooklyn left to colonize. These creatures are adapting to our suburban communities and expanding into new habitats.
Coywolf? Not Exactly. Rockland’s Coyotes Are Three Species Rolled Into One
Local news coverage refers to our coyotes as coywolves suggesting that the coyotes living in Rockland County are half coyote, half wolf, but that’s only part of the story. Eastern Coyotes are descendants of the Western Coyote that migrated into Ontario after the Grey Wolves there were extirpated and their territory became available for colonization. There they interbred with the few Grey Wolves still alive and hybridized. Then, roughly 11 to 22 generations ago, these wolf-coyote canids hybridized again with the domestic dog. Genetic tests on Eastern Coyotes, native to our area, show that they are roughly 70% coyote, 20% wolf, and 10% domestic dog.
This video was taped in 2017
Eastern Coyote Field Facts
Today’s Eastern Coyotes are distinguished from their western counterparts in many ways. A significant difference is size. Eastern Coyotes adults typically weight 30-40 lbs, with female Eastern Coyotes weighing 21% more than their western male counterparts. It is not uncommon for many adult males to tip the scales at 50lbs or more.
Both Eastern and Western Coyotes live in monogamous pairs for most of their adult lives and carve out territories that are roughly 10 square miles in rural areas of the state, but in Northeast suburban areas, the territory can be as small as 2.2 miles. Eastern Coyotes mate between December and February and give birth 60 days later to litters of 7-9 pups, though litter size can be heavily influenced by competition from other coyotes and food availability. Territories, typically defined by roadways and other obvious landscape features like streams or mountains, are defended against other coyotes outside their pack. Yearling males and senior or ill coyotes are often forced out of the pack. These ‘lone wolves’ are sometimes assimilated into other packs, but most often inhabit the regions between packs where they hunt and exist alone. Because pack regions can be defined by roads, many of these outcasts are often hit by cars.
Coyotes often forage by themselves or in pairs and on rare occasions in family packs when they are hunting larger prey like deer. They are opportunistic omnivores meaning that they eat whatever edible plant or animal matter is most abundant and readily available. It’s not uncommon for them to feed on deer fawn in the spring; bugs, seeds, and berries in the summer; and small animals like mice, rats, rabbits and squirrels throughout the year. In suburban areas, they scavenge road kill, pilfer garbage, and eat rats and mice.
Coyotes live 6-8 years in the wild and about twice that time in captivity. In the wild, they are often victims of common domestic dog diseases like parvo, leptospirosis, distemper, lyme disease, rabies, mange, fleas and ticks.
It’s easy for today’s dog owner to be dismissive of diseases like rabies and distemper, and to a smaller extent mange, leptospirosis, and Lyme disease, because we don’t see cases of these diseases in our companion animals as frequently as we see illnesses like kennel cough. But we see fewer cases, not because risk for these diseases is lower, but because vaccines against rabies, distemper, and Lyme disease are very effective. Wild dogs have half the life span of our domesticated dogs in large part due to the lack of basic care we afford our pets. We can’t stress enough how valuable annual pet care is for your dog or cat. Also, as the habitats of people and animals like coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and opossums merge, pets and people are more at risk of coming in contact with the reservoir for these diseases. The rate of dogs testing positive for Lyme disease in our area is currently 1 out of every 6 dogs. Please ensure that your pet is protected year round with a great flea product like Bravecto (rebate with purchase). You should also consider adding a tick collar like Preventic since the tick population and the level of Lyme disease in our area is so high. Lastly, please ensure your pet has annual veterinary care and remains up to date on all of his or her vaccines.
Will A Coyote Attack My Cat?
While some citizens delight in knowing that these beautiful creatures have returned, others alarm that they are preying upon pet dogs, cats, backyard flocks of chickens, sheep, and deer. But there is increasing evidence that this notion is backwards, at least as it pertains to cats. At least one study shows that cats steer clear of areas where coyotes roam and in fact, it is the coyotes that are most likely keeping cats out of remote, wooded areas where they don’t belong and forcing them to remain habituated to backyards and housing complexes where they are safer and less likely to decimate native species of birds and small mammals.
Will A Coyote Attack A Human?
One of the most significant drivers of human attacks is community members’ interest in feeding coyotes. Coyotes that are purposefully fed are more likely to tolerate and approach humans resulting in opportunities for territory defense and fear biting. Victims of coyote bites report scratches and puncture wounds. In at least one bite case in Rockland County, a coyote that bit a resident, tested positive for rabies. For information on how to scare off a coyote that you believe is aggressive, you can review the coyote hazing guidelines produced by the Humane Society.
Coyotes have been permanently living in the Bronx for approximately 30 years now. They have been spotted in Central Park and have migrated as far as La Guardia Airport where a pack was euthanized after a considerable amount of community outcry. One coyote made headlines after it was photographed standing on the roof of a building in Long Island City (click for photo). Another was tracked through the manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea where it was eventually sedated by local law enforcement, treated at a veterinary care center in Brooklyn, and released in a safer area.
Coyotes found killed on roadsides have been stored at the Museum of Natural History for future study and comparison as coyotes continue to breed, adapt, and move within our area. The Gotham Coyote, a group ‘Researchers, educators, and students working together to study the ecology of the northeastern coyote in New York City and the region’, have a website that includes great photos of the eastern coyote and more information on its eating habits, where it lives in NY, and so forth.
Thanks to The Wild Dog Foundation
Thanks to local wildlife expert, Frank Vincenti, for his generous time and his input on this article. Mr. Vincenti runs a not-for-profit organization called the Wild Dog Foundation. To invite Mr. Vincenti to speak at your next community event on the topic of wild animals as they interact with pets and people, please reach out him by email.