After telling Bey about my GHO experience on Friday, we decided to trek back up to Croton on Saturday to do some more Owling. On the way up, I told him about the cache of bones I had discovered and asked him what he thought. After some time, we settled on the idea of a large mammal, as anything that can kill a redtailed hawk would have to be larger than a fox. The fact that the bones were located together ruled out GHO as they tend to scatter their past meals to deter predators such as raccoons. As we entered the Park, Bey noticed a large dog scouring the grass.
Upon closer examination we realized it was a healthy, well-fed female Coyote!
When it became aware of our presence, it promptly slinked back into the woods, drawing the attention of more than a few crows.
We followed it for a bit and came upon some of its scat. It was packed with duck and gull feathers. So it seems the mystery has been solved...apparently this lone Coyote has been picking off all the birds and small mammals it can find throughout the Park, probably since Late Summer. This is why absolutely no shorebirds were found off the Southern shores of the entire Park. Obviously this presents an ethical dilemma. This Coyote is pretty much eliminating the Park's status as a bird haven by predating on all that it can find. However, the animal seems happy and healthy in its own little Nature preserve. What, if anything, should be done about it? The problem is that it has no future in the Park as it probably wont be able to find a mate and even if it did, a wild population of Coyotes in this location would spell bad news for all involved. Trapping Coyotes often proves fatal although leaving the animal in the Park over the Winter may prove fatal to it also. Many wild Coyotes also have heartworm, mange and even rabies--so lets not forget that Croton Point Park is also a dog park. Also the fact that this particular one seemed to be in good health is no guarantee that it isnt harboring a latent issue. My feeling is that the Coyote should be trapped in as harmless a fashion as possible over the next few weeks. If it survives, I think getting a sample of its DNA would prove useful on several fronts. If the Coyote is in good health, it should be returned to either Bear Mountain, Harriman State Park or some other large, local Park. I also think it should either be tagged or micro-chipped just in case it ever returns in order to make identification possible. If anyone out there cares to weigh in, please leave a comment or email me.
Merry Christmas to all the Nature lovers!