Earlier this month sightings of coyotes were reported near Lattingtown and other North Shore communities. Newsday's Steve Langford reports.    Credit: Newsday / Reece T. Williams/Reece T. Williams

Concerns are being raised over coyotes on Long Island after reported sightings earlier this month near Lattingtown and other North Shore communities.

While it's unlikely Long Islanders will find themselves in direct conflict with coyotes, which can grow to the size of large dogs, wildlife experts warn that pets, especially outdoor cats and small dogs or puppies, could sometimes find themselves prey.

In extremely rare circumstances, Nassau County SPCA President Gary Rogers said, small children could be at risk — though the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said while about 650 people are hospitalized annually in dog attacks in New York, only "a handful of coyote attacks" occur each year nationwide.

Generally, Rogers said this week, "They're not going to hurt you, they're not going to bother you, as long as you give them their space."

Moving to the suburbs

First seen in New York in the 1990s and on Long Island a little more than eight years ago, wildlife experts said coyotes have steadily moved east and south in search of better habitat — and said that in surburban Long Island they may have found it.

The NYSDEC said the first confirmed Long Island sighting was "the presence of one coyote in the Watermill/Bridgehampton area" in 2013 and said there have been unconfirmed sightings across Long Island over the years. Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said those sightings include a golf course in Babylon, while Rogers said there have been sightings — confirmed and unconfirmed — along the North Shore.

While wildlife biologist Scott Smith of the Bath office of the NYSDEC estimates there are some 30,000 coyotes statewide, Rogers and Gross said this week only a handful are believed to be on Long Island — perhaps no more than 15 to 20 in all.

Frank Vincenti, who founded the Wild Dog Foundation in 1996 and who is a leading metro area expert on coyotes, said there are three known groups of the animals on Long Island — in Kings Point, Port Washington and Manhasset — but said some may have roamed into other areas.

'Leave them alone'

Smith, who does online NYSDEC presentations as Wildlife Biologist Scott, said in a video on coyotes that despite open land upstate the animals, which are in the canine family, prefer suburban environments due to the ready presence of food.

"You could actually have more coyotes per square mile in suburbia than you do in the wilderness," Smith said in a video, adding: "The closer they are to human activity the better off they do, because the habitats are better for them."

Vincenti agreed and said local residents need to restrain themselves from interacting with the animals.

"If you are habitually feeding them or making food easily available, you need to stop," Vincenti said. He added, "Don't be so seduced into thinking you have this relationship with them, that you have this spiritual communing with nature. You're not doing them a favor."

Coyotes can grow to 30 to 45 pounds. Rabbits, squirrels, small animals, mice, rats, insects, fruit and vegetables are all in the diet.

Rogers said eliminating the feeding of feral cats and not leaving birdseed out would help reduce the likelihood of attracting coyotes to residential yards, as would making sure garbage is inaccessible.

If confronted by a coyote, residents should stand tall, act big, spread their arms and make loud noises.

"Don't run," Rogers said. "When you run, you become prey."

Rogers said, "There haven't been any real reports here or across the country in a very long time of anyone who's gotten hurt by a coyote. But people are intrigued by them and it's that potential interaction that has our concern. They're pretty much a canine. Just like you don't go near a dog you don't know and don't run from a dog you don't know, don't go near a coyote."

As he said: "They're not going to hurt you, they're not going to bother you, as long as you don't bother them. Leave them alone. You'll be fine."


  • Call 911 if you see a coyote exhibiting threatening behavior.
  • Do not feed coyotes and discourage others from doing so.
  • Do not feed pets outside. If you are feeding feral cats please stay and observe the cat feedings and remove all food before leaving.
  • Eliminate availability of bird seed. If you see a coyote(s) near your birdfeeder, clean up waste seed and spillage to remove the attractant.
  • Make certain that garbage is inaccessible to wildlife.
  • Fence or enclose compost piles so they are not accessible.
  • Teach children to appreciate wildlife from a distance as to avoid the risk of being injured.
  • If confronted, stand tall and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw sticks and stones. Do not run away, as running away after seeing a coyote is behaving like prey.
  • Do not allow pets to run free. Supervise all outdoor pets to keep them safe from coyotes and other wildlife, especially at sunset and at night. Small dogs (even if on leash) and cats are especially vulnerable to coyotes. Keep cats indoors.
  • Conflicts between dogs and coyotes can happen any time of the year, but are more likely in the months of March and April. It is during this time that coyotes are setting up their denning areas for the soon-to-arrive pups.
  • Fencing your yard may deter coyotes. The fence should be tight to the ground, preferably extending six inches below ground level, and taller than 4 feet.
  • Remove brush and tall grass from around your home to reduce protective cover for coyotes. Coyotes are typically secretive and like areas where they can hide.

Source: Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, Councilwoman Michele Johnson and Nassau County SPCA President Gary Rogers

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