Multiple coyote sightings have been reported in Nassau County in the past couple of weeks, with one evolving into an incident where a dog was attacked while on a walk. But local coyote expert Frank Vincenti is working to educate the community on how to co-exist with the fairly harmless animals.
“It’s important people learn how to live with them and how to deter them,” Vincenti said. “This way they understand it and they don’t get into these sorts of conflicts.”
A dog owner reported his 10-pound puppy Nala was attacked by a coyote on Nov. 4 while hiking near the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor. The puppy survived, but the owners called for action to protect locals from future coyote attacks.
That’s where Vincenti stepped in.
Vincenti, founder of Wild Dog Foundation, started his not-for-profit in the early 1990s to educate people on how to understand and co-exist with local foxes and coyotes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He said that was around the time these two animals began migrating into the New York City area.
Vincenti’s work includes offering educational workshops on living with coyotes as well as evaluating sightings of coyotes and making recommendations on how to address situations.
Informed of the incident by police on the scene, he called the recent coyote attack an “avoidable” incident.
Vincenti said he was informed by police that the dog was walking off-leash on the museum property. He said while he wasn’t sure how the dog and the coyote came into contact, leashing dogs is a way to prevent dogs from wandering into such scenarios.
The police told Vincenti when the dog owner walked up to the spot where the attack took place, the coyote ran away. He said this was a good sign as it showed the animal was still healthily fearful of humans and less likely to cause them any harm.
Vincenti said coyotes have been on the island for about eight years, with only one coyote present in Roslyn Harbor. He said it has been in Roslyn Harbor for about a year, but roams widely along the North Shore and there is speculation the animal may be connected to a family group based in Sea Cliff.
Within the Town of North Hempstead, there are at least 15 coyotes.
He said the coyotes are typically staying on private estates with expansive green spaces, but some do live in highly residential areas.
Vincenti said this is the case with a group of coyotes living in North Hills that have been seen late at night. He said despite living in this area, they are not showing signs of being fed by residents or “aggressively” pursuing pets.
He worked over the summer to haze this group of coyotes, which he said instilled in them fear that has led them to become more discrete in the area.
Vincenti said the coyote population is not a problem at this time, but conflicts can arise. He said community members can help to prevent confrontations.
“Coyotes are opportunists,” Vincenti said. “And people just have to use some common sense.”
Vincenti said residents can assist in mitigating any future issues with coyotes by not feeding them, which makes them more comfortable around humans, and practicing common sense with pets when they are outdoors.
He recommended that pet owners keep their animals leashed when walking them outside, to keep them indoors at night, not feed them outdoors and not to leave them unattended outside.
He said that while some cats have gone missing as of late, there is no evidence that coyotes are responsible. He said that many cats are capable of co-existing with the coyotes.
While it may be easier said than done, Vincenti said residents should not recoil when they approach a coyote but rather make noises and throw things at them to scare them away.
Vincenti hazes coyotes, a humane way of deterring behaviors, to ensure they do not get too comfortable around humans who they are naturally fearful of. He said he reverts them back to shyness and reclusiveness by making loud noises in their presence.
He said this is something community members can do as well.
“Act very loud and annoying and they’ll run off,” Vincenti said.
For community members who want to take it a step further, Vincenti said they can carry around an air horn or whistle to deter the coyotes from approaching them.
Vincenti said there is no threat to humans, whether a child or an adult.
“We are not on the menu,” Vincenti said.
He said that while there are incidents of coyotes biting humans, it is rare. He said this is typically exacerbated by the coyotes being fed by humans and becoming aggressive in pursuing the food.
Vincenti said there is also no worry about rabies as it is not prevalent in the coyote population on Long Island.
Vincenti said he wanted to reassure residents not to be alarmed about the coyote sightings, saying he is a resource for community members who have any questions or concerns.
“I’m a pet lover myself,” Vincenti said. “I want to keep dogs and cats safe. I want to keep the coyotes safe.”
Community members can contact The Wild Dog Foundation at [email protected] to report any sightings of coyotes.