[Marxism] Fwd: How Coyotes Conquered New York | Village Voice

Louis Proyect 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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