Residents of the North Bergen Housing Authority, a complex of government-subsidized apartments at 61st Street, got an unsual memo on Jan. 10. Across the top in bold letters it was marked IMPORTANT NOTICE. The subject line: “Coyotes.”
“Please be aware that coyotes have been sighted in and around the North Bergen Housing Authority properties,” read the memo, which was sent by the North Bergen Housing Authority (NBHA) on Jan. 10. The notice urged resident to “take extra measures of safety regarding children and pets being outdoors as coyotes do pose a threat. The North Bergen Police Department, the North Bergen Board of Health, and Animal Control are aware of the situation and are taking measures to eradicate the threat of these animals.”
“Coyotes have been sighted in and around the North Bergen Housing Authority properties.” –North Bergen Housing Authority
He added, “No injuries have been reported and the action is precautionary in nature.”
A local resident commenting about the memo on Facebook last week said that he had heard that someone’s pet was missing, and the pet owner was concerned that a coyote was the culprit.
According to Swibinski, a missing dog was recently reported; however, it appears that the owner let it out at night without a leash, making it impossible to know whether the disappearance was related to the coyote situation or not.
“This is obviously very unfortunate and is the reason why the township has a leash ordinance in place to protect pets,” said Swibinski.
When asked if it’s possible the one resident who spotted the coyote was mistaken, Swibinski said, “The NBHA always takes resident complaints seriously and if animals are reported near the building, the procedure is to immediately alert the North Bergen Police Department and the animal control officer and notify the residents. We are hopeful that the situation will be resolved soon.”
Coyotes in North Jersey
“In the past people have seen deer, turkeys, possums and raccoon in that area of the township,” added Swibinski. “It is certainly unusual for an urban area to be visited by animals like this, but perhaps North Bergen's location adjacent to the Meadowlands wetlands is the explanation.”
In neighboring Secaucus, the Health Department issued a notice to residents during the summer of 2012 about an increase in the sighting of red foxes, saying they were usually harmless and instructing residents about how to scare them away.
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife (DEP), coyotes, which are indigenous to North America, have been documented in nearly 400 municipalities from all 21 counties in New Jersey.
They are naturally wary of humans but their behavior can change—especially in the presence of human food or garbage.
Coyotes primarily feed on wild rodents and rabbits, states the DEP website. They are also an important part of the ecosystem, helping to control the rodent population. However, on rare occasions they have been known to attack small animals or even humans.
Among the actions the DEP recommends to reduce the likelihood of conflict with coyotes are the following:
• Make sure garbage is placed in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
• Bring domestic pets indoors at night.
• Do not feed pet cats or feral cats outdoors, as the food can attract coyotes.
• Never feed a coyote.
Anyone who spots a coyote should contact the local police and the DEP at 908-735-8793. Outside of normal business hours the DEP hotline is available at 877-WARN-DEP.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.