The first confirmed sighting of a coyote on Long Island took place late last week on a Water Mill farm, and the New York State Department of Conservation is investigating whether the canine is alone or one of several that have taken up residence on the East End.
The farmer snapped of photo of the animal, and the DEC said Tuesday it is has been positively identified as a coyote.
Frank Vincenti, the director of the Wild Dog Foundation, said this is the first coyote sighting this fast east of the New York City border. There have been several sightings in Queens and there is one resident coyote there, he said.
Past sightings on Long Island have been debunked as misidentifications. "I investigate claims from people throughout Long Island, and they turn out to be fox," Vincenti said.
Vincenti and the DEC agreed that it is unclear how a coyote could have made it to Water Mill.
"As to how the coyote entered the area, it is purely speculation," said DEC spokesman Bill Fonda.
Vincenti noted that there is a coyote population in the Bronx, and he suggested that the coyote could have come over a bridge, or swam. "The only other scenerio is someone may have trapped it somewhere and released it," he said.
However, Vincenti said he doubts the coyote was trapped, because it is apparently behaving naturally in its current environment.
Fonda said, "DEC plans on investigating this sighting to determine if there are additional coyotes in the area."
Vincenti is hoping that's the case. "I'm pretty ecstatic and excited about it, and I'm deperately trying to reach out to people to educate. I have been doing this for 20 years," he said.
There were small wolves on Long Island, much like coyotes, up until 400 years ago, Vincenti said. "In a lot of ways, the wolf has returned. Nature has filled the void."
"We have an ecosystem devoid of established predators," but coyotes can turn that around, according to Vincenti. A coyote population will help control rodents and can also reduce the number of deer on Long Island by preying on fawn, and therefore reduce cases of Lyme disease, he said.
Coyotes require a lot of space, so there will never be a large coyote population on Long Island, he said.