Sunday, July 4, 2010

No Lions and Tigers, but Plenty of Bears as Population of Coyotes, Deer and Raccoons Boom by Barry Paddock - NY Daily News

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Wild coyote Hal ran amok in Central Park in 2006 before getting caught.

The urban jungle's getting wilder every day.

Booming populations of coyotes, deer, bears and raccoons are causing chaos in close suburbs and encroaching more and more on the five boroughs.

A coyote led cops on a three-day chase through Tribeca in March. Three black bears were spotted just a few miles from the George Washington Bridge in May. And Thursday, two deer tore around the parking lot of a Target in the Bronx.

Experts say numerous factors are leading to the city's growing wild kingdom, from more greenways and bike paths to over-development in the burbs.

"You see them in city limits more than you have in the past," said Dr. Pat Thomas, head animal curator at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo. "Animals can become desensitized to our presence and more emboldened."

After only three coyote sightings in Manhattan over the last decade, the cunning canines have been popping up all over Manhattan. One roamed Harlem in January, three were spotted at Columbia University in February and another was seen crossing a frozen lake in Central Park.

"We're going to see them continue to infiltrate New York City," said Kevin Clarke, a wildlife biologist with New York's Department of Environmental Conservation.

In Rye, just 12 miles from the Bronx, police are hunting for coyotes that attacked a 3-year-old girl Tuesday and a 6-year-old girl four days earlier.

And on Friday, a cop in Yonkers fired at a coyote but the animal escaped.

"This is new to a lot of the experts," said Rye Mayor Doug French. "There's no explanation at this point."

Parents aren't letting their children outside, said Kelly Hodulik, whose daughter, Emily, 6, suffered minor injuries after being bitten on her shoulder and thigh by a pair of coyotes. "Everybody's being really cautious," Hodulik, 42, said. "It's really scary."

Coyotes also are striking out into the city, following power line corridors, parkways and greenways - perfect paths for critters.

"One thing I've learned in the past 10 years," said Dr. Stanley Gehrt, a coyote expert at Ohio State University, "is to never bet against coyotes."

Biologists believe deer in New Jersey have been swimming across the Hudson River to Staten Island since 2000, replenishing the dwindling native population.

Frank Masseria, 53, videotaped the migration of two deer swimming from Perth Amboy, N.J., to Tottenville in May.

"You always wonder how they got here," Masseria said. "I understand they are good swimmers, but to actually see it, I was pretty shocked."

The city is increasingly going to the birds. New York has the highest density of peregrine falcons in the world, said Glenn Phillips, executive director of New York City Audubon. And while Pale Male and Lola used to be about the only red-tailed hawks, now there are more than 30 in the city, he said.

While bears have yet to be spotted in Manhattan, they have gotten close. West Milford, N.J., postponed fireworks after a bear charged a hiker, injuring his dog.

A bear could make the swim across the Hudson River, biologists say, but would likely be discouraged by the urban landscape on either side of the river.

"You're seeing them in places you didn't see them before," said Larry Ragonese of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. "They're moving toward New York."