July 22, 2011
Coyote sightings causing concern in Hackensack
By Mark J. Bonamo
Residents are certainly familiar with the typical sounds of the city.
But for those who live close to Borg's Woods, one urban sound has been echoed recently by a more natural counterpart.
"When an ambulance siren goes by, the juvenile coyotes start howling and yelping," said John Labrosse, a Hackensack councilman and Brook Street resident, who has encountered an increased number of coyotes in his neighborhood in recent months. "I love wildlife, but I am concerned because they are very brazen. Borg's Woods is an oasis for them."
The infusion of the canine creatures into and around the nature preserve located in the northwest corner of the city has caused concern for local residents, who cite street and backyard sightings as reasons for caution.
Emil Canestrino of Brook Street also noted the apparent comfort with which the coyotes are walking the local streets.
"They just walk right down the middle of the street," said Canestrino. "There are a lot of children in this neighborhood. I go out for my newspaper in the morning, and sometimes I get a little nervous."
Both Labrosse and Canestrino said that they have noticed fewer animals that could be prey for the coyotes in the neighborhood, including skunks, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, pheasants and deer.
Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection noted that the approximately 3,000 coyotes now living throughout New Jersey's 21 counties are not relocated unless the usually shy and reclusive animals become aggressive. However, residents can call the Division of Fish and Wildlife if concerned. There have been no reports of coyotes attacking humans in the Garden State since 2007, when a boy was bitten in Middletown.
The Fish and Wildlife web page offers advice for those looking to keep coyotes at arm's length. Coyotes should never be fed, and feeding pet cats or feral cats outdoors could draw them closer. Garbage should be put in firmly closed containers that are not easy to tip over. Brush and weeds should be cleared away from houses to provide less protective cover for coyotes or creatures that they prey upon, such as rodents or rabbits. Motion-sensitive lighting put in place around the house can also be helpful. And if coyotes are in the neighborhood, people can let them know that they are not welcomed by making loud noises, throwing rocks, or spraying them with a garden hose.
Capt. Bill Sheehan, head of the Hackensack Riverkeeper environmental advocacy group, noted that the coyote's reemergence can be attributed in part to stricter hunting laws and the removal of the animals' natural habitats by development. Sheehan also used a pop-culture reference to note the coyote's high adaptability to changing surroundings.
"There is a reason why they call Wile E. Coyote a wily coyote," Sheehan said.
Sheehan offered some common-sense advice when dealing with coyote sightings.
"Like any other wild animal, you just have to respect their space and keep your distance. If you don't disturb them, 99 percent of the time they will not disturb you. Coyotes should be respected, not feared. They are just another member of the food chain. People shouldn't press the panic button every time they see one."
People concerned about a possibly threatening coyote can call New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Services at 908-735-7288.The department also has a 24-hour hotline at 1-877-WARN-DEP.