One such example is the recent reports of a coyote spotted around Rochdale Village, Queens. Now I can’t speak to the accuracy of these reports, but it would not really surprise me. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and have been found in other sections of New York City, including Manhattan.
In fact, here at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo, we have a coyote that was discovered running around Central Park in 2000 and is still living a comfortable existence here. Coyotes aren’t the only wild animals that can be found within the city limits. Almost all of our city parks have some owls, raccoons, and opossums as nocturnal residents.
Having these animals living in close proximity to people should not alarm anyone. Almost all wildlife is more than happy to be left to go about their business and will not bother anyone if they are not harassed themselves. Even a coyote living in suburban or even urban neighborhoods generally wants nothing to do with humans.
So when you see a raccoon, opossum or even a coyote, the best course of action you should take is to appreciate the chance to see something interesting and somewhat unusual, and just let the animal be.
This is doubly true if you see any of these animals out during the day. Raccoons, opossums, and coyotes are normally active at night, and if you see them out and about during the day, it could indicate the animal is potentially ill and should be given an extra wide berth.
But with the exception of ill or injured animals, I take great comfort in seeing wildlife within the city limits. Whether it is wild turkeys at Pelham Bay Park, or Peregrine falcons nesting on the Whitestone Bridge, I like to see wildlife be able to live in proximity to us.
It gives me hope for wildlife that they can adapt their ways to living within the context of the many alterations we have made to the urban landscape. If they can survive in Manhattan, surely they should be able to thrive in areas that are less crowded and congested?
But it is not just a feeling of hope for the animals I get when I see urban wildlife. It also gives me hope for people. If in the course of our busy lives, and all the requirements we have for living in the city, we can make some small amount of room for the wild animals that are found around us, even if they are squirrels and chipmunks and songbirds, then maybe we aren’t really doing too badly ourselves.
Scott Silver is the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo.