For the first time ever, a coyote was seen, documented and confirmed on Long Island, and it’s in the Hamptons.
Newsday reported Tuesday that Water Mill farmer Richard Wesnofske spotted the four-legged beast in his potato field and managed to capture a picture of it with his phone at around 7 a.m. on Monday, June 24. Wesnofske passed the photo along to hunting guide, who then sent it to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The DEC positively identified the coyote and announced its findings on Monday, July 1. A representative from the agency, Bill Fonda, said the DEC is investigating the matter and looking to find other coyotes in the area by searching for tracks, scat and kills. Fonda could not confirm how the coyote found its way to Water Mill, and it would be “purely speculation” to guess. He did point out that many coyote sightings have been reported on nearby Fishers Island.
DEC wildlife biologist Josh Stiller said there are coyotes in Queens and one could have migrated east to the Hamptons, possibly via the railroad tracks, which would make a “good travel corridor.”
Some have speculated in the past that introducing coyote into the East End could help curb our exploding deer population, but they typically only go after the larger prey during difficult winters, after smaller mammal populations decline. “They’re an opportunistic eater,” Fonda said, explaining that coyotes feed on whatever they can find.
An information packet supplied by the DEC notes that coyotes eat berries, insects, rodents and carrion, but they “can, will, and do kill healthy adult deer.” It also confirms that in springtime, coyote can have an impact on fawn survival in localized areas.
Stiller noted that the DEC has no reason to remove or eliminate the coyote at this point. “It’s not causing a public safety risk,” the biologist said, pointing out that the species is protected on Long Island, despite the fact that they’ve never been reported here before. A special permit would have to be issued to kill the coyote, and that would only happen if it were causing a legitimate nuisance.
New York State has some 20,000–30,000 coyotes living north of Manhattan and the abundant food supply in suburban areas makes living close to people worthwhile, the DEC packet says. It notes that, along with the typical hunting and scavenging, coyote thrive on eating garbage, pet food, cats and small dogs.
Keep an eye out for coyotes in the Hamptons. Just look for their identifying characteristics, as described by the DEC. “The Eastern coyote looks like a medium-sized German shepherd dog, with long thick fur. The tail is full and bushy, usually carried pointing down. Ears are erect and pointed.” They are 4 to 5 feet long (including tail) and weigh 35–45 pounds. Males are usually larger than females and their color varies from blonde or reddish blonde to dark tan washed with black. Legs, ears and cheeks usually reddish.