Growing concerns about a spiraling number of coyote sightings in Pleasantville prompted village officials last week to schedule a forum to provide safety tips and advice to residents.
With an uptick in reported coyote sightings over the last two months, Kevin Clarke, wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said it is part of a trend that residents should become accustomed to.
Clarke spoke at the Clinton Street Center for an Oct. 2 forum and was blunt in his advice to residents to keep themselves and their families safe from coyotes. He noted that coyotes are found in every county within the state, including New York City’s five boroughs.
“The reality is coyotes are here,” Clarke said. “I want coyotes to be on your mind because it’s going to dictate your behavior and minimize the likelihood of having a negative interaction while they’re out there on the landscape.”
With coyotes often preying on dogs under 15 pounds, Clarke advised dog owners should never leave their pets unattended in a yard and be walked on a short leash. He said coyotes will get locked in on a dog and go after it, especially if it’s alone or on a long leash.
He recommended residents erect a six-foot fence to keep coyotes out of the yard. Coyotes are often able to jump a four-foot fence.
“The days of the electric fence, the invisible fence, they’re done,” Clarke said. “Letting your guard down and thinking it’s okay to let the Jack Russell out in the backyard with the invisible fence, it’s not okay. If you care about the dog, don’t leave it outside unattended.”
Residents at the forum noted an increase in missing cats, with some stating they have seen cats killed by coyotes. Clarke stressed that residents should keep their cats indoors. A coyote isn’t the only predator that can kill a cat, he said.
Clarke recommended residents carry an airhorn or whistle or carry a stick with them when they take their dogs on walks. He said if a coyote approaches, make yourself appear to be aggressive and get the attention of the animal with a loud device to make your presence known.
While coyotes aren’t typically a threat to humans, attacks have occasionally occurred, Clarke said. He reminded residents not to run away from coyotes because it’ll spark their predator instinct.
Clarke noted that the DEC receives several complaints about coyotes every day from residents who want them taken away from their home. He said the most complaints in Westchester have come from New Castle, particularly Chappaqua.
While he would like to alleviate residential concerns, Clarke said the DEC can only intervene if a coyote exhibits threatening behavior. Only then will a permit be issued to the homeowner or municipality to remove the animal.
Clarke said residents should always contact the DEC with concerns so they can take the proper steps to resolve the problem. However, if there’s an emergency, local authorities should be contacted.
Many residents in attendance expressed frustration to changing their routines to avoid a coyote sighting. Others conveyed immense fear that family members, children and pets could be at risk.
Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said the board would be working on solutions to address the issue. While coyotes can’t be eradicated, he said the village will try to resolve the issue quickly.
“I don’t want anybody’s life to be upended by something like this,” Scherer said. “How we deal with this, I’m not 100 percent sure, other than to say we’ve got to figure that out as fast as we possibly can.”
For more information, Kevin Clarke can be reached at 845-256-3088.