[Marxism] Fwd: How Coyotes Conquered New York | Village Voice
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Oct 13 13:25:03 MDT 2016
For the better part of a decade, a lone coyote named Frankie has made
his home in a small patch of forest in central Queens. Wedged
uncomfortably between a dense residential neighborhood and the tracks of
the Long Island Rail Road, his park is not the ideal habitat. It's maybe
four blocks at its widest. On one side are high-rise housing
developments, and on the other, within a block, pizza parlors and corner
stores make up a busy commercial district. It's not much better inside,
either. Stands of locust grow thick as cotton batting, and it's dim even
at midday. Thorny branches of barberry and wild rose run along the
ground like concertina wire.
For an animal that prefers wide-open spaces — an animal that evolved on
the Western plains — Frankie's park is all wrong. Before 1900, the
coyote's range was limited to a band of territory in the Southwest and
Northern Midwest of the continent. They had no use for the raveled
deciduous forest of the Northeast.
Over the past century, coyotes have more than quadrupled that original
range, colonizing almost the entire continent, from Panama to Alaska.
It's an enormous swath of territory encompassing every kind of habitat
imaginable, from Southeastern forests to subtropical jungles and
Canadian taiga. In the past, the northern part of this range was
patrolled by gray wolves, the coyote's direct competitor. Part of the
coyote's success comes from the extirpation of the wolf, done in mostly
by government eradication programs a century ago.
But the coyotes' spread also has to do with their staggering
adaptability and resilience. Targeted for killing, they quickly learn to
outwit traps and sniff out poisons. They can vary their food sources
almost limitlessly, from small mammals to large ungulates to fruits and
vegetables or garbage. When extermination campaigns thin their numbers,
their social structure morphs; packs that might otherwise hang together
split up, spread out, and colonize new areas. They even adjust their
litter sizes, seemingly at will, giving birth to more pups when
population levels fall.
Unlike bears and raptors, which have rebounded in recent decades,
coyotes haven't thrived because of human efforts but in spite of them.
In Utah, the state pays a $50 bounty per head. In much of the country,
they're still regarded as pests; at least 400,000 are killed annually.
There are all-day contests that end with thumbs-up grins over heaps of
bloodied carcasses. Even in New York they're classified as "nuisance
animals." Under state regulations, hunters can kill as many coyotes as
they like, using virtually any method, day or night, for six months out
of the year. Squirrels, by contrast, have a daily bag limit of six, and
a shorter hunting season to boot.
Still, the coyotes are winning. The first confirmed sighting in New York
City came in 1995. In 1999, a coyote showed up in Central Park, landing
on the nightly news. There were other early sightings, too. A coyote was
spotted on an ice floe in Jamaica Bay in 2004. In 2014 a coyote showed
up by the World Trade Center. Last year, one appeared on the roof of a
bar in Long Island City.
As it turns out, the coyote's saga is coming to a climax, right now, in
our backyards. Having colonized virtually every square mile of the
continent, the only large landmass they haven't yet settled fully is
Long Island. And that is poised to change very soon. Frankie, then, in
Queens, is on the farthest leading edge of his species. If past
estimates of rate expansion hold up, his kind could reach Montauk in a
decade, and the conquest will be complete.
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