Earlier this year Seatuck sent the following letter to Governor Cuomo expressing outrage over the Port Authority's recent killing of coyotes at LaGuardia airport:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
RE: Coyotes on Long Island
Dear Governor Cuomo:
On behalf of the membership of the Seatuck Environmental Association – a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving Long Island’s wildlife and environment – we are writing to voice our outrage over the recent governmental killing of coyotes in New York City and our alarm about the unwise precedent it sets.
As was widely reported, in late 2016, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (“Port Authority”) determined that a group of pioneering coyotes that had settled into a wooded area near LaGuardia Airport were a threat to the safety of airport staff and visitors, as well as residents in surrounding neighborhoods. At the Port Authority’s request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) killed almost all of the coyotes (nearly a dozen in all), including both adults and pups.
As an avid outdoorsman and someone who appreciates the natural heritage of New York, we are sure you can understand our dismay at the actions taken by the Port Authority and USDA. Long Island has been missing terrestrial apex predators since colonial times, resulting in an ecosystem that is out of balance in many regards. Coyotes, ecologists expect, will eventually fill this empty niche and help restore equilibrium to Long Island’s natural communities. For example, Long Island’s deer herd is expanding well beyond the natural carrying capacity in many places, destroying the woodland understory and prevented natural forest regeneration. These impacts reduce the quality of forest habitat and harm countless species of birds and other wildlife. For these and other reasons, many Long Islanders have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of coyotes and anticipating the positive ecological impacts that will come with the reestablishment of an apex predator.
Coyotes have been expanding their range (which was historically limited to Midwestern prairies and Southwestern deserts) for more than 200 years, taking advantage of the extirpation of Gray Wolves and human landscape modification. They now exist in every state in the country. They first became firmly established in New York State in the 1940s; by the 1980s
they were settled into every corner of the state, except New York City and Long Island. Over the past two decades, they have expanded into New York City, taking up residence in parts of the Bronx. Long Island now remains one of the few places in the country that these adaptable canids have not conquered.
Despite their wide range and presence in most major cities and countless suburban neighborhoods, conflicts between coyotes and humans are extremely rare. While conflicts can certainly arise (generally in situations where coyotes are fed or simple precautions are not taken), the concern about risks to people and pets is grossly exaggerated. The simple fact is that coyotes coexist alongside humans throughout North America, from Canada down through Mexico; there is no reason why they cannot coexist on Long Island.
Given this reality, as well as the positive ecological impacts they will bring, we find it completely unacceptable that taxpayer dollars were used to thwart the welcomed expansion of coyotes to Long Island. The USDA and the Port Authority should not be unilaterally acting against the interests of the people of New York City and Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
We request that New York State conduct an investigation of the coyote killings at LaGuardia Airport, especially regarding the process through which the decision was reached and the applicability of federal and state wildlife laws. The incident may prove to have a silver lining if it helps to confirm and clarify the State’s support for coyote expansion, and establish a clear protocol for the next time coyotes move on to Long Island (which experts say will be soon).
Again, we strongly support the expansion of coyotes to Long Island and urge you to intervene to ensure that the misguided actions of the Port Authority and USDA are not repeated.
ENRICO NARDONE, Esq.