Museum Researcher Studies Long Island’s Newest Residents: Coyotes
Researchers added the first coyote ever to be recovered on Long Island to the collection of the Museum’s Mammalogy Department in the 2015 fiscal year. “While the coyote is widely recognized as one of the most resilient creatures in North America, the idea of a New York City coyote is still pretty amazing,” said Mark Weckel, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation and manager of the Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP).
In 2015, numerous coyotes were sighted in both Manhattan and the outer boroughs, and as close to the Museum as Riverside Park. Weckel has been studying this expansion of coyote range as part of a program called the Gotham Coyote Project (GCP), a collaborative effort between researchers from the Museum and the Mianus River Gorge in Bedford, NY.
The GCP studies coyotes using camera traps, which take a picture only when motion-triggered—a method of study that can prove the presence of coyotes in an area.
Students in the Museum’s educational programs are also participants in GCP’s research. High school students who participate in SRMP, monitor the organization’s automatic cameras to study coyote and deer populations in the region and also study coyote scat samples to learn more about their diet.
While only one coyote has been collected on Long Island, Weckel says the eventual establishment of a population in and around the city is a foregone conclusion. But these new neighbors shouldn’t worry New Yorkers, as they’re not interested in mingling with the city’s human inhabitants.
“Urban coyotes have smaller home ranges, and they find the areas we frequent the least,” says Weckel. “A successful coyote is the one people rarely see.”