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Expert: Coyotes' arrival on LI only a matter of time

New York Police Department officers try to catch

New York Police Department officers try to catch a coyote in a park on Thomas Street near Broadway in lower Manhattan. (March 24, 2010) Photo Credit: Daily News

The coyote trapped in downtown Manhattan Thursday wasn't on his way east to visit cousins in Levittown.

Long Island is one of the few places in the United States these adaptable canids haven't set up housekeeping. It's thought to be the biggest coyote-free land mass in North America.

"There are some very significant barriers," said Gordon Batcheller, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "They're not real swimmers. . . . They're probably capable of traversing bridges, but the ones in New York are so big it would be hard."

Coyotes moved into New York State in the 1920s, part of a nationwide expansion from Montana and Wyoming after the decline of their main predator - wolves. Now common in the city's northern suburbs, coyotes make semiregular pilgrimages through the Bronx and Central Park.

There haven't yet been confirmed sightings in Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island. But coyote expert Jacqueline Frair says it's a matter of time before one hops a ferry or figures out a better route across the East River than the Queensboro Bridge.

When they do, she said, these omnivorous scavengers will find plenty of food and habitat.

"They end up in elevators in Chicago," said Frair, an assistant professor of wildlife biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. "They moved into pure urban areas and were living in alleys and under people's decks and no one knows that they're there."

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