Sunday, April 26, 2015

New York's Coyote Cops

Just before the dramatic capture

Yesterday I spoke of the dramatic police chase and failure to capture a roaming coyote on the Upper West Side of Manhattan last Wednesday.

On Saturday morning, another coyote -- presumably a different one -- was spotted in Battery Park City, far away on the southern tip of Manhattan.

The coyote was chased for two hours by a dozen or more of the city's finest, on foot and in police cars.  At the the end of the chase, the animal was cornered while trying to hide under outdoor tables at a restaurant not far from the World Trade Center.

Police administered a tranquilizer shot and transported the coyote to an animal shelter, where it was found to be healthy.  The coyote will now be moved to a more coyote-appropriate location.

A remarkable amount of police time has been devoted lately in Manhattan to chasing coyotes, whose population in the city is quite low.

Some residents have begun to question this law enforcement commitment because coyotes are known to hunt and eat rats and mice.  Anyone who has lived in Manhattan knows that the borough has more rats than anyone really wants.

Later That Day

Another interesting incident happened yesterday in Manhattan, this one in the East Village.

After a dozen or more police officers participated in the roundup of  a single coyote, two police detectives went Saturday afternoon to question and presumably arrest a man who was believed to have punched and stolen the purse of a woman he knew.

The police went to the man's home, "a supportive housing complex for people with mental illnesses."  The suspect jumped out a window and ran down a fire escape.

The two detectives caught up with the man, and a struggle ensued.  The man grabbed one of the officers' police radios and began hitting the policemen on the head with it.  He had no other weapon.  

One of the officers pulled his gun and shot the man once.   The man died.  The officers were treated for bruises and lacerations.

I have to question the allocation of police effort here -- a dozen officers to chase and catch a small animal but only two to deal with a mentally disturbed and potentially violent suspect.

Just think if a third officer had accompanied the two detectives.  Maybe the three of them -- or four or five, if necessary -- could have stopped the single suspect without the use of a gun.  Maybe the unarmed suspect would still be alive.

It's a fun novelty for police to chase coyotes through a city, but there are more important matters, sometimes life-and-death ones, that deserve more of their attention.

Interesting Coyote Facts 

The recent New York reports made me curious about coyotes.  A quick internet search led me to a well-researched and fairly definitive 2013 article by Scott Sandsberry in the Yakima (WA) Herald-Republic.  HIs basic theme was that coyotes are here to stay.

Among his findings:

    -- Just about every city has a coyote population, from urban San Francisco with 10 to 15 to Chicago, where estimates run as high as 2,000.

    -- Coyotes kill more livestock than bobcats, mountain lions, cougars, bears, dogs and wolves combined.  (Like the others, coyotes occasionally attack and kill humans.) This is simply because there are so many more coyotes than members of the other predator groups. 

     -- As many as 400,000 coyotes are killed each year by ranchers, hunters and wildlife officials, but their overall population is believed to have doubled over the last 150 years.

     -- Delaware was the last state to host a coyote population, apparently starting in the late aughts.  Since the state is mostly bounded by water, the coyotes had to "travel through a 15-mile strip of urban blacktop populated by 150,000 humans" to stake their claim.  

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