Several weeks ago the Hudson Reporter ran an article about coyotes in Hudson County. Coyotes had been sighted in North Bergen, and the Housing Authority (NBHA) sent out a notice urging resident to “take extra measures of safety regarding children and pets being outdoors as coyotes do pose a threat.”
Shortly after the article was printed, the Reporter was contacted by two readers, both with strong opinions on the subject, and both named Frank.
Frank Vincenti is the founder of the nonprofit Wild Dogs Foundation, based in Mineola, N.Y. He has lectured throughout the Tri-state area for the past two decades to educate the public on how to coexist peacefully with coyotes and other wildlife.
“Coyotes are intelligent and clever.” – Frank Vincenti
Coyotes fear people
According to Frank Vincenti, coyotes are indigenous wild animals that are not looking for conflict and serve a useful purpose in the ecosystem.
“I understand the public anxiety and the protocols for alerting the public,” he said of the North Bergen sighting, “but the animals are acting normally. Merely sighting one isn’t a prerequisite for conflict. The animals are going to be there.”
His recommendation is to scare them off if you see them. Coyotes do not relish contact and will go out of their way to avoid humans.
“Throw something at them or run after them. They have an innate fear of people.” He also suggested using an air horn or spraying them with a hose to chase them off.
People fear coyotes
Frank Meyer said he has regularly seen coyotes outside his window for years.
“I called (the authorities) two years ago and they really didn’t think too much about it,” he said.
Then the NBHA sent out the announcement on Jan. 10 about the coyote sighting in North Bergen, and when police came investigating, neighbors directed them to Meyer. “I showed them where the coyotes are. I showed them where to put traps.”
And Meyer should know. “I’m an avid hunter since I’m a kid,” Meyer said. “Thirty-five years I’ve been doing this: shooting deer, coyote, pheasant. I take multiple animals every year. I’m an avid bow and arrow hunter. I’ve shot coyotes with the bow and arrows in the past.”
Meyer is concerned about the packs of coyotes he said roam through the underbrush behind the apartments. “Now everybody’s starting to hear them, their howling at night,” he said. “It sounds like a hundred of them, but there’s only half a dozen. Every time the fire truck goes by the siren sets them off, they start howling.”
“My recommendation is to hire a professional trapper,” he said. “Because Animal Control are not experienced with this kind of animal. Coyotes are smart.”
Coyotes in the wild
On one thing the two Franks agree. “They’ll be lucky if they catch anything,” said Vincenti. “Coyotes are intelligent and clever. It’s very time consuming and difficult to do anything about them.”
Describing himself as “a layperson, not a scientist,” Vincenti is a barber by trade and an animal advocate by choice. “I guess you grow up liking animals and certain species and I’ve always like predators: cats, dogs, hyenas. I come from a blue collar family with very little opportunity to study academically so I pursued it on the side and I’m more effective being a loudmouth layperson than a Ph.D. who has to refine their opinions.”
Recognizing that his perspective is not always popular, Vincenti said, “I’m not being insensitive. I’ve been labeled a villain quite often, but I don’t get paid for this. I’m willing to travel on my own expense, pay my own tolls to educate people about wild animals. I hope I’m making a difference.”
Vincenti’s recommendation is to keep distance from the coyotes and allow them to live in the wild as they always have. “New Jersey is the perfect litmus for the rest of the country,” he said, “because you have the highest density of people and wildlife that’s doing very well. So you have this combination of urban and suburban life coexisting with healthy and robust wildlife: bear, coyote, deer, bobcat.”
As mentioned in the previous Hudson Reporter article, a dog was reported missing about the time the coyote memo was issued by the NBHA. According to Frank Meyer the dog was taken by coyotes.
“I know that because I spoke to the woman’s cousin and she told me what her cousin did,” he said. “She let her two dogs out at night, off the leash. Coyotes are opportunists; they’ll eat anything from worms to garbage. She heard the ruckus and then she went out there and she can’t find the one dog. She posted signs, and the other dog she had to bring to the vet, it was bit in the neck.”
Frank Vincenti admits to the possibility of this happening but finds it unlikely, since coyote attacks of the sort are extremely rare. Nonetheless, he agrees that pets should not be left out at night without a leash, as recommended among the “coyote precautions” on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife (DEP) web site.
At the same time he contradicts a few of the points listed on the site, such as the statement that coyotes are attracted to garbage. “I have great respect for state agencies. I’ve worked with them, but coyotes are basically a new phenomenon for Jersey Fish & Game, and they’re perpetuating a lot of inaccurate stuff.”
“None of the urban studies show coyotes are attracted by anthropogenic (produced by humans) food,” Vincenti said. “They really prefer their natural prey. Unlike bears and raccoons, which are more diverse in diet, coyotes prefer animal protein. If they’re found rummaging around garbage cans they’re probably eating rats. That’s what they’re attracted to.”
In fact, Vincenti said, “That could be a benefit to having them in close proximity to these developments. Rat control, that’s what they’re doing.”
“As far as danger to the public, they’re like any other wildlife,” he said, and suggested following the other recommendations on the DEP website. “Don’t feed wildlife. Act confident. Exercise common sense around them, like with any other animal.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.