The first officially confirmed Long Island coyote sighting was announced Monday by the Department of Environmental Conservation in Bridgehampton, and the agency is investigating whether others are in the area, a spokesman said.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first confirmed sighting in Nassau and Suffolk counties," Bill Fonda of the DEC said in an email. "DEC would not expect to see a coyote in Bridgehampton, but there have been many reports of coyote sightings on Fishers Island."
DEC staff examined a photo provided by an area farmer and confirmed it a coyote, Fonda said in an email.
"When staff go out they will look for other things like paw tracks . . . that might indicate that this animal is in the area," Fonda said.
Richard Wesnofske, 50, a farmer who said he saw the creature in his potato field in adjoining Water Mill, snapped a photo with his iPhone around 7 a.m. Monday, June 24. The creature gave him a glance, said Wesnofske, and looked to be "in no hurry to run away. . . . [It] went about his business and didn't seem affected by seeing me."
Wesnofske said he sent the photo to a hunting guide. The guide, who said he had seen a coyote in recent years, sent the photo to the DEC.
Mike Bottini, a wildlife biologist in East Hampton, said he's been expecting a coyote "would make it out this way," having heard of their presence in Queens and Manhattan and seen evidence -- tracks, scat and photos -- of a breeding population on Fishers Island.
It could have either swum the Long Island Sound or crossed from New York City, said Javier Monzon, a postdoctoral fellow at Stony Brook University and a coyote expert.
If the coyote took the city route, it would be surprising for it to be first spotted so far east, he said.
Looks similar to a medium-sized German shepherd. One distinguishing feature -- runs with its tail down
Makes yipping, yelping, howling sounds
Lives in mated pairs, family units, usually not in packs
Eats mostly rabbits and rodents, but also grasshoppers, berries, melon, carrion, cats, small dogs, pet food, garbage
Sighted in New York City and its northern suburbs; also on Fishers Island
Source: NYS DEC, Cornell Cooperative Extension