A coyote litter has been spotted living in an Astoria, Queens, industrial park — a first for the borough and a harbinger of more to come on Long Island and New York City, experts say.
Workers in the industrial park, near LaGuardia Airport, spotted three adults and eight pups earlier this summer. A recent sighting showed that five pups remain.
“Multiple individuals will be dispersing and looking for new territory,” said Russell L. Burke, chairman of Hofstra University’s biology department. “Eventually, all the spaces on Long Island that can take coyotes will be filled. That might take 50 years, but by then we’ll all be used to it.”
The eastern coyote — adults are 4 to 5 feet long, nose to tail, and weigh 35 to 45 pounds — is already present in most major cities in the northeast United States, Burke said. Coyotes have been spotted on eastern Long Island before and as many as 50 may live in New York City, but Burke and colleagues argued in a 2015 paper that colonization was only a matter of time.
The coyotes may travel along Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road rail lines, Burke said. To reach Long Island, they may have swum the East River or simply walked over a bridge. Their Long Island diet may consist of scavenged garbage, mice and rats, even crabs on the beach, he said.
Coyotes may kill cats and small dogs. In rare cases, they may even attack humans, though the New York Department of Environmental Conservation suggests on its website that people view this possibility in perspective: on average, 650 New Yorkers are hospitalized each year after dog attacks, but there are only a handful of coyote attacks annually in the entire nation.
“People should not let their cats outside at all anyway, and small dogs should not be unattended,” Burke wrote in an email.