Yee, and I cannot emphasize this enough, haw: Coyotes—famously the predatory guardians of our plains and Western regions—are tightening their furry grip on Upper Manhattan. In recent years, the coyotes have cemented their dominion over Central Park, and have been spotted more frequently in other parts of the city. Howdy, partners.
According to the Parks Department, coyote sightings have skyrocketed since the agency began tracking them: Two coyotes were sighted in Queens and...that's it for NYC in 2016, zero coyotes seen in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn that year, sorry! Things got marginally more interesting in 2017, coyote-wise, with three beasts spotted skulking in the Bronx, plus one apiece in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. In 2018, New Yorkers reported four coyotes in the Bronx, zero coyotes in Brooklyn, two coyotes in Manhattan, and two coyotes in Queens—not very many coyotes, when you consider what came next. 2019 has thus far seen an explosive 36 coyotes, an astounding 27 of those sightings clustered in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the Bronx saw five, Queens saw four, and Brooklyn saw none (sad).
Contain your excitement, though: "We want to make it clear that there are not 27 coyotes living in Manhattan," Meghan Lalor, the Parks Department's director of media relations, told Gothamist. "An increase in sightings doesn't mean that there is an increase in actual coyotes in the city." Rather, Lalor explained, the mass influx of people into parks during summer months means more eyeballs with which to espy the coyotes—particularly in Manhattan, where these prowlers remain a "novelty." Still, coyotes have been a known quantity for the Parks Department going on three decades now, even if they are creeping down from their historic home (the Bronx) into Queens (LaGuardia! Middle Village!) and the northerly reaches of Central Park.
Which is to say: Hide your kids, hide your pets, but don't freak out too much because the coyotes will likely hide from you. Unless, of course, they're diseased or just totally inured to the maelstrom of out-of-the-blue insanity that is daily life in our five boroughs. "If you cross paths with a coyote in New York City, respect them the same way you would any other New Yorker, and give them plenty of space," Lalor advises, echoing the same request you would doubtless like to make of the person currently leaning against the subway seat divider and ass-first into your bubble. "They just want the freedom to independently explore New York City too."
Coyotes, they're just like you and me! In that they want to be left alone, and will do anything for a snack, including claw open your trash bins. You may think of coyotes as avowed meat-eaters, and while they may do their bit in the city's war on rats (and/or go after your small dogs and regular-sized cats), they will also...eat pretty much whatever they can hunt/find. From LiveScience:
They are typically thought to be only meat eaters, but they are actually omnivores—they eat meat and vegetation. When they aren't snacking on bigger prey, they will eat snakes, insects, fruit and grass. Coyotes have been known to kill livestock and pets, but they usually help control agricultural pests, such as rodents. In cities, coyotes will eat pet food or garbage.
And on that same note, please: Do not approach or feed the coyotes, as it skews their natural sense of wariness regarding humans, and also interferes with their hunting instincts. "Keeping coyotes wild is the key to coexistence," Lalor says. If one does amble up to you despite your best efforts, she adds, "make yourself look bigger by putting your arms up, and make loud noises until the coyote retreats. Appreciate coyotes from a distance." Not least because, watching them run away, you will have prime opportunity to enjoy them trotting a few paces forward, turning back to look at you, and continuing on their coyote way with a cute little rump shake.
So, appreciate them from a distance, but also, report any that you see to the Parks Department here, because (as Lalor previously told Gothamist), the department and the Gotham City Coyote Project (which helps track the rat hounds) "learn more about these animals and their behavior."