In a week when millions of moviegoers are being terrified by the plight of a fictional family stalked by extraterrestrial predators in the newly released hit movie A Quiet Place, filmed partially in New Paltz, local residents are facing a real-life threat from the animal kingdom. At least one pair of coyotes, described by eyewitnesses as unusually large, healthy-looking and “bold” in their behavior, has apparently staked out a territory in the vicinity of Springtown Road, west of the Wallkill River. The wild canines have recently killed several small dogs and been seen stalking others. In response, the town has sought and received a permit from the DEC to use non-lethal means to relocate the coyotes.
“At approximately 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, my daughter and I witnessed our 11-pound Maltese being carried out of our front yard by a large canine predator,” Morning Star Drive resident Jennifer Ippolito wrote in an e-mail. “We chased it through our neighbors’ yards to Springtown Road, but couldn’t catch it…. My son’s soccer coach had just dropped my 11-year-old off at my house after practice and reported seeing a very large canine predator in my yard. My second Maltese was also missing from my yard.”
Ippolito reported the killing of her dogs to the State Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and was told that the predators had in all likelihood been coyotes. However, she said, “The animal that my daughter and I saw looked more like a wolf… The DEC insists that we do not have coy-wolves in the area.”
Four days later, on Sunday, April 8, Ippolito said that she spotted “a large canine predator crossing the field” on Springtown Road, while a passing motorist stopped to photograph the animal. “I parked my car right approximately ten feet away from it. It did not acknowledge my presence. There was a woman walking her medium-sized dog — at least 30 pounds — down the trail. I observed the predator lower itself in the grass, ears back in what seemed to be a hunting position. Just as the predator bounded down the hill to attack, I laid on the horn, got out of the car and started to yell and throw rocks at it. The predator tried to attack the dog twice before the woman and dog could run up the hill and get into my car,” she wrote.
After Ippolito posted accounts of her family’s experiences with the presumed coyotes on social media, a number of other residents of the same western New Paltz neighborhood responded with similar sightings and scares. Several mentioned having reported the events to the DEC. Town of New Paltz officials responded to complaints about the predators menacing house pets by posting a link on the town website to DEC guidelines for avoiding conflicts with coyotes. These precautions include not feeding pets outside; making garbage inaccessible to animals; fencing compost piles; eliminating availability of birdseed; cutting brush and tall grass from around the home; and not allowing pets, especially cats and small dogs, to roam free. “If you see a coyote, be aggressive in your behavior — stand tall and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, then make loud noises, wave your arms and throw sticks and stones.”
The DEC publication notes that spring is the time of year when coyotes set up dens to raise their pups, and typically begin to exhibit more aggressive hunting behaviors. “Conflicts with people and pets may result, as coyotes tend to be territorial around den sites during the spring through midsummer period as they forage almost constantly to provide food for their young,” it warns.
“I am concerned about the safety of not only our pets, but of our children,” wrote Ippolito. “We need a more accurate, fuller picture of what is going on, and I am not sure that our governing bodies are fully aware of the situation.”
Supervisor Neil Bettez said this week that the town had received a permit from the DEC to “engage in non-lethal activity to encourage the coyotes to relocate their den during the breeding season.” The permit allows the town to harass or haze the animals, which includes the use of rubber buckshot, which stings but doesn’t cause permanent damage. The town’s animal control officer, together with a DEC technician, will attempt to locate the dens and harass the animals. Coyotes, when harassed, will look for a den elsewhere.
Persons who witness coyotes stalking pets or exhibiting no wariness of humans are encouraged to report such incidents to the DEC at (845) 256-3000.