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Residents assured coyote sightings not a cause for concern

After months of searching and attempts to catch at least two elusive coyotes reportedly roaming around Rochdale Village, animal experts and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) are warning residents not to worry about the wily predators.

The councilman began handing out fliers in southeast Queens Monday to help ease residents’ fears of the coyotes. Since November residents have been claiming they have seen at least two of the wild animals prowling around their premises, but no one has been able to capture and remove them.

Comrie said his office had received numerous phone calls from constituents as recently as last week, but he thinks the reports are real and not analogous to the alligators in the sewers urban legend.

“People have seen dog-like animals that they think are coyotes, so something is up,” the councilman said.

Comrie took advice from Joseph Pane, the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s principal fish and wildlife biologist, on possible explanations for the appearance of the coyotes.

Pane, who has been working as a wildlife biologist for 20 years, said it is common for coyotes to spread out from their natural habitat to find food sources.

He noted the animals have a tendency to travel along train tracks and stations, such as the Long Island Rail Road’s Locust Manor stop.

“Many of the tracks have places they can hide under,” Comrie said.

Pane said residents should not worry about their safety because coyotes only eat shrubs, rodents and other small animals. If a person were to encounter a coyote, he suggested shooing it off by making noise and, more importantly, not feeding it.

“Don’t do anything to attract it,” he said. “What you have to do is to let the animal move on.”

After residents first reported seeing the coyotes in November, the city’s Animal Care & Control set up traps around Rochdale Village, but the agency removed the traps when the animals were not caught.

Pane said the animals are very sly dogs.

“It’s too incredibly hard to catch one of them,” he said.

Mel Holmes, a nearby homeowner on 129th Avenue, said that although the suspected coyotes have not directly hurt him, he is annoyed they are wandering the streets.

“It’s a wildlife animal that has teeth and can bite, so it’s natural to be up in arms,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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