Saturday, April 01, 2006

Just in, the NY Times story about CP Coyote

Hal Coyote, 1, Dies; Romped in the Park

By James Barron
Published: April 1, 2006

Hal, the coyote who led park rangers and police officers on a two-day chase in Central Park last month, died on Thursday, moments before he was to be released in a thousand-acre state forest in Putnam County. He was about a year old. Daniel Avila/New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, via Reuters

Hal was captured on March 22 near 79th Street. On Thursday night, the coyote died in Putnam County while being tagged for release. The cause of death had not been determined, Gabrielle DeMarco, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said yesterday.

Hal's birthplace was unknown, as was his birthday. After his romp in the park, Adrian Benepe, the city's parks commissioner, speculated that Hal had fled Westchester County, wandering across the railroad bridge that connects the Bronx and Manhattan at Spuyten Duyvil. From there, Mr. Benepe said, Hal could have sauntered down the West Side and into Central Park.

He had the run of the park for a few days before parks officials cornered him at the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, not far from the Wollman Rink and the carousel. He leaped over their heads and spent another night on the loose before being felled by a tranquilizer dart fired by a police officer.

He spent the last week of his life in the care of wildlife rehabilitators on Long Island. They turned him over to state biologists on Thursday.

"He was in good shape when he left me," one of the handlers, Rebecca Asman, said yesterday. "Maybe there were other things going on inside of Hal. He looked good to us. As far as outward appearance, he was eating very well and he was very calm, but coyotes are by nature very calm."

The state biologists took him about 60 miles north of Manhattan to the California Hill State Forest in Putnam County, near Kent, N.Y., Ms. DeMarco said. There, she said, Hal stopped breathing when the biologists and Cornell University graduate researchers restrained him to put an identification tag on his ear. She said that a soft muzzle had been placed around Hal's snout, but it did not cover his nose. His legs had also been restrained, but he had not been tranquilized, she said.

She said a necropsy would be conducted to ascertain the cause of Hal's death. "For an animal to die during standard tagging procedure is rare," Ms. DeMarco said. "We're hoping the necropsy procedure will shed light on Hal's overall health and whether previous stress on the animal during his chase through the park contributed to his death."

Central Park coyote dies during tagging

This pathetic news, from the CNN website, was sent in by Judy Glattstein. An informative letter from a California correspondent who heard the news follows the story
The Central Park coyote, after capture
Photo appeared with the AP news story

Friday, March 31, 2006; Posted: 4:58 p.m. EST (21:58 GMT)

ALBANY, New York (AP) -- Hal, the coyote who paid a visit to New York City and was captured as he loped around Central Park, died as he was being tagged for release in the wild, a state official said Friday.

The coyote stopped breathing Thursday night during the routine tagging procedure and biologists could not revive him, said Gabrielle DeMarco, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Pathologists were trying to determine whether the stress of his capture or captivity or something else contributed to the death of the year-old, 35-pound coyote.

The coyote, nicknamed Hal by park workers, led dozens of police officers on foot and in a helicopter on a wild chase through the urban greenery March 21 and 22. He jumped into the water, ducked under a bridge and leaped over an 8-foot fence.

Hal was finally caught when a police officer shot the animal with a tranquilizer dart.

Officials had taken Hal from a wildlife rehabilitation expert in Long Island on Thursday and had planned to release him in a state forest in upstate New York.

How Hal reached Central Park is a mystery. He may have wandered into the city from the suburbs, or perhaps crossed the Hudson River from New Jersey by way of a bridge or a passing truck.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Sorry about the Coyote was the subject line on the following e-mail I just received from Steve Watson, a California scientist who keeps up with Central Park happenings:

Understand he died during handling for release. Capture stress and mortality are always a concern, as I understand it. I was told that capture stress-related mortalities in pronghorn fawn (2 of them a couple of years ago) are why NPS halted the pronghorn fawn mortality study in Yellowstone. Once in a great while a wolf will expire during handling (which is why the biologists want to absolutely minimize handling time, especially for a drugged animal...they work quickly and efficiently, work them up, then leave and watch from a distance as they come out of it...very professional).

Shame that he didn't make it...I was rooting for him to be released into the wild and live a free, natural existence...

Friday, March 31, 2006

One last webcam

One absolutely last webcam link -- [unless they put one up in Central Park]. This one is pretty amazing:

Shari Landes writes:

It’s a live webcam of a bald eagle nest - real time - up close and personal - the clarity is amazing! No stop action or delays.

Go north young turkey

Wild Turkey in the North Woods - 3/30/06
Photo by Cal Vornberger

Hi Marie:

I went uptown today looking for the Louisiana Waterthrush (which I never found.) Imagine my surprise as I set-up my equipment in the Loch and discovered our friend the Wild Turkey foraging in the Lesser Celandine. After a while he moved across the stream and trotted up into the Wildflower Meadow. This is one tame turkey.



Cal Vornberger

Wildlife Photography

If only we had DNA evidence

Though I try to limit postings on this site to Central Park nature news [and subjects relevant to CP stories I've been following], and though the following story focuses on a redtail in a different NYC park, I have a hunch that the bird Bob Levy writes about below is part of the Pale Male dynasty. What could be more Central Park related than that?

Date: March 29, 2006
Location: Carl Schurz Park (Yorkville)
Subject: Red-tailed Hawk
Reporter: Bob Levy

For months I have noticed a Red-tailed Hawk hunting
pigeons over 2nd and 3rd Avenues in the east 80’s.
However, most often I saw it at a distance soaring
over what I assumed to be Carl Schurz Park although
from my vantage point I could not be certain of it.
Last evening I decided to find out if that was the
hawks headquarters. It is.

I found the Red-tailed Hawk within minutes of arriving
in the park. It was perched in the open about fifteen
feet above a number of dog walkers who were utterly
unaware of the bird’s presence. I was able to follow
it to several spots as it actively but unsuccessfully
hunted. Several times it went over the wall
surrounding Gracie Mansion, the “official” residence
of the Mayor of New York, and each time it was noisily
heckled by several American Robins, four House Finches
(a species I never noticed in this park before) and a
male and female Northern Cardinal.

On one perch, the hawk picked at strands of ivy
clinging to the bark. It got increasingly involved in
this activity until it ripped off a section of the
vine. Then it moved to another spot where it snapped
off a branch of a tree. This is an immature bird,
guessing by its size it might be a female but seeing
it take that branch made me hopeful that it was taking
it to a nest site. But it wasn’t. The hawk dropped the
branch on the way to its next stop. That was where the
hawk remained. Near the top of large oak it engaged in
vigorous grooming and then hunkered down to roost for
the night.

This is a great opportunity for birders to observe a
Red-tailed Hawk because Carl Schurz is only eleven
acres. There are lots of ideal perches, including the
surrounding high rises on East End Avenue that the
bird uses. I hope you get a chance to see it.

I would like to take this opportunity to answer two
questions I have been asked. The answers are “yes” and
“yes”. I was interviewed on the Brian Lehrer show on
WNYC on March 28th and I am doing a reading from my
book, Club George: the Diary of a Central Park
Bird-watcher, at Barnes & Noble on 82nd Street and
Broadway, Friday March 31st at 7:00 PM.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Four eggs in peregrine scrape on Water Street

Peregrine Falcon at Jamaica Bay, October, 2005
Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

Matthew Wills posted this on e-birds yesterday. Though it is not a Central Park nest, everyone in the Central Park nature community is deeply interested in our city's nesting falcons, and the Water Street pair, having a webcam on their box, are the most famous of the lot. Too bad we don't have a camera focused on the 12th floor of Fifth Avenue and 74th Street. We'd now know how many eggs Pale Male and Lola are incubating. On the other hand it's good to have a little suspense about something in life.

. . . there are eggs at the peregrine scrape at 55 Water Street. The site,, hasn't been updated this season, but the "live birdcam" link is working. The first egg showed up last week, there were three on Monday, and I just watched the birds switch places over four eggs. That's the falcon (female) there now; you really get a nice view of the size differential when she is side-by-side with the tercel (male). Best views are in the afternoon when the bright morning sun isn't bleaching out the image.

Bill Trankle of Indianapolis writes:

Marie, while nest cam sites are becoming almost commonplace these days, there are a couple of great ones that I thought you and your readers might enjoy. One is an eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) nest cam in urban Austin, TX that is now focused on their new batch of 4 (so far) eggs. (, and the other is a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) nest cam here in downtown Indianapolis, also with 4 eggs ( Both sites have cameras that update once per minute. A word of warning: These sites are addictive and so much more entertaining than any "reality" TV you'll find on the idiot box these days.

As for the latest wildlife sightings in your own slice of green ("Turkeys, coyotes, and hawks, oh my!"), I wonder if the original designers of Central Park ever thought it would be such a fantastic haven for creatures of all altitudes? Truly amazing.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Turkey shoot in Central Park

The Wild Turkey that arrived in the park on March 26 continues its stay for the fourth day. The Early Birders ran into it at Ballfield 6 of the Great Lawn this morning. Yesterday Cal Vornberger shot a series of amazing photos in many different locations of the park. Three are below.

Turkey checking out construction near Mall

Turkey averting her gaze from entwined couple

Yes I can fly. How do you think I got here?

All photos by Cal Vornberger
shot in Central Park on March 28, 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The New York Times featured two [well, I guess three] Central Park chroniclers in an article last Sunday. [Please note Postscript at the end].

March 26, 2006
Reading New York

. . . and on the Wing


Who knew? Pale Male has been a household name for more than a decade, but only the Regulars, as they are described by Marie Winn, whose 1998 book chronicled the celebrity hawk, might be aware that Central Park is one of the nation's top spots for birding.

In 1886, the park's first official bird census counted 121 species. Since then, 282 have been observed. Twice a year, more than 200 species — one-third of all those found in the United States — fly though this Manhattan oasis as they migrate.

Cal Vornberger's vivid photographs of 116 of those native and visiting species, arranged artfully by season and accompanied by a pocket guide, practically fly off the pages of "Birds of Central Park" (Abrams, $35). Though published late last year, the images are, like Pale Male, perennial.

Mr. Vornberger, a television and theatrical designer, turned to photography full time in 2001, but the attacks of Sept. 11 doomed his prospects as a travel photographer. That October, walking in Central Park, he was captivated by a great egret in the Turtle Pond. So began his odyssey.

"I tell people that I don't take bird photographs — I take photographs with birds in them," he writes. "I would rather have a good expressive photo of a common bird than a dull snapshot of a rare bird."

In her forward, Ms. Winn describes Mr. Vornberger as "a tree in human disguise," one who can lure birds from their hiding places. "For Cal Vornberger," she adds, "patience, almost beyond human understanding, is the magic flute."

A more recent contribution to the subject of New York birds, by Bob Levy, is "Club George: The Diary of a Central Park Bird-Watcher" (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.95), a charming and intimate chronicle of a 50-year-old laid-off corporate executive's encounter with a red-winged blackbird.

"My behavior changed in significant ways as a direct result of my first interactions with George," Mr. Levy writes. "I believe that is all the more remarkable because he initiated those interactions."

His book is as much about the habits of people — how human nature helps us cope with the faceless crowd by compartmentalizing it — as it is about birds. Both can be gregarious, and worth watching.

"I make no claim to have a special skill or talent that attracts birds to me," Mr. Levy continues. Instead, he credits the park itself: "There are not many places I can think of where so many birds and so many people come into contact with each other routinely."

Postscript: Below, info on a forthcoming book signing on the Upper West Side.

Turkey news

Turkey in tree - 3/26/06
Photo by Cal Vornberger

This report just in. Our turkey may be here for a lengthy stay. By the way, Cal Vornberger notes that several birders think that the bird is a male.

8:30 am, 3/28/06 : wild turkey, female, crossing East Drive at about 68th Street heading in direction of bandshell, mall, etc. Calm, not bothered by numerous off-leash dogs who also did not seem to take notice of it.

Egg-citing news

Charlotte and babies -- June, 2005
Photo by Lincoln Karim

My friend . whose 65th floor apartment looks down into Charlotte and Junior's nest, just sent a much-awaited message:

Just to let you know that Charlotte stood up at about 5PM today, and I could see that there were two eggs in the nest; no doubt about it.

Best regards,

The 1999 Coyote

A week ago when I posted news of a coyote's arrival in Central Park, I mentioned an article I had written about the park's last coyote visitor. Looking over this old piece I was struck by the similarities between the two coyote episodes: the choice of Hallett Sanctuary by both animals and the huge forces it required to capture each of the beasts. I'm hoping that the 2006 coyote doesn't end up in a zoo like the 1999 one did.

PS I posted news of a wild turkey in Central Park two days ago. Hearing that news, website correspondent Mai Stewart wrote:

Good thing the coyote's gone, otherwise we'd really have a wilderness event in CP!

Here's the article:

[This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 8, 1999]

Last Thursday an odd visitor showed up in Central Park. You may have seen him on the news that evening or on the front page of the New York Times the following morning. The color photo by Dith Pran reveals a man dressed in protective clothing who is cowering in the background while a few steps away, leaping gracefully over some clumps of grass, his mouth gaping, ears erect, bushy tail between his legs, is a large,furry, brownish grey canid. A coyote.

A surprising variety of creatures -- raccoons, woodchucks, squirrels, mice, rats, 5 species of turtles, at least 6 kinds of fish, and 22 species of birds are year-round residents of Central Park. A far greater number are tourists, among them 4 kinds of bats and some 170 species of birds. They pay regular visits, but for perfectly good reasons having to do with food supply they wouldn't want to live here.

Occasionally, some wildly unexpected creatures show up. A few years ago a South American gull whose northernmost boundary is Lima, Peru stopped in at the little water body near 5th Ave and 59th Street officially called The Pond. [It turned out that the bird had come from the Bronx Zoo where an outdoor aviary had collapsed.]

Only last week [April 2,1999] a flock of 17 big green and red parrots were seen swooping around the park, flying in formation like planes at an air show. They have been identified as Mitred Conures,[Aratinga mitrata] a species that usually resides in the mountains of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. This particular flock seems to have permanently relocated, and spends its winters in the vicinity of Rosedale, Queens.

How did a coyote find its way into Central Park? Once a resident of the American West, Canis Latrans [the species name means "barking dog"] has dramatically expanded its range and may now be found throughout the northeastern states.] An animal with a deeply ingrained fear of humans might conceivably have come down from the wilds of Westchester, where coyotes have been sighted.. It could have skulked from green patch to green patch through the wilds of the Bronx, swam across the Harlem River into Inwood Park and then Riverside Park on Manhattan's wild west side. But how on earth did he get from there to Central Park with no connecting strip of green? Crosstown bus?

Unlike the gull or the parrots or just about any of the park's exotic visitors of the past, the latest rarity was not exactly given a warm welcome. Before the birders' grapevine could notify the park's tightly knit nature community of the thrilling arrival, a posse of policemen, park workers, public officials, and news reporters commenced to hunt the coyote down. And although he was finally captured, in the process he proved to be just as wily as his famous cartoon prototype.

Regina Alvarez, a Section Supervisor for the Central Park Conservancy, was one of the many participants in Central Park's first Coyote Hunt. A personable young woman with a genuine interest in wildlife, Ms. Alvarez often acts as a liaison between the park's powers-that-be that might see a dead branch as an eyesore to be removed and its vigilant community of regular birdwatchers who regard it as a potential home for a woodpecker.

"We had heard rumors earlier about a coyote in the park, but nobody was sure whether it was an April Fool joke," Ms. Alvarez relates. "At about 10:40 a.m. I heard one of the guys who works at the Castle reporting on the walkie-talkie that he'd just spotted the coyote at the Marionette theater. I dropped everything, got into my golf cart and scooted across the Great Lawn. "When I reached the Delacorte bathrooms I heard on the radio that the coyote was heading for the Ramble. That animal was so fast! As soon as somebody said 'He's at the Castle' somebody else said 'No, he's here at Bow Bridge,' and then 'No, he's at Balto," and then 'No, he's at the Hallett Sanctuary.' The coyote got from the Castle to Hallett in less than 2 minutes."

The Sanctuary is an enclosed nature preserve on the west side of The Pond. By the time Ms. Alvarez got there a large number of people had already gathered: At least 25 police officers from the Emergency Service Unit were there. They were filling their dart guns with Ketamine HCl, a widely used veterinary tranquilizer.

Neil Calvanese, Central Park's Chief of Operations, and its preeminent tree expert was there, together with Dennis Burton, the park's Woodland's Manager. Also people from the Parks Dep't, from the ASPCA and the Center for Animal Care and Control. Commissioner Stern was there. So was the Borough Commissioner, some deputy commissioners, and lots and lots of reporters.

The coyote had been seen entering the Sanctuary through a hole in the fence on the west side. When Ms Alvarez arrived she saw Van Thon, another Supervisor, closing up the hole.

Ms. Alvarez continued her narrative: " Maria and Russell--she's the Great Lawn Manager and he's the Turf Care Supervisor for the park--and I were told to spread out around the sanctuary and tell on the radio when we see the coyote. Neil and the commissioner and the guys with the darts went inside the sanctuary.

"Then I saw him --a beautiful, big, healthy animal. Really big. When he saw they were chasing him he did the smart thing -- went right back to the hole he had gotten in through. But he saw they had closed it. So he kept running.

"You could tell that nobody there knew how to hunt down a coyote. Every time the animal appeared everybody made so much noise that they'd scare him off. The animal was basically going around in circles, but they kept waiting in these odd spots where they couldn't get a good angle.

"The whole thing was so exciting because this never happens in the park, and it was exciting to see a kind of animal I'd never seen before. But I also felt terrible. He was just trying to live. They weren't trying to kill him, but I still felt awful. I actually think everybody was sort of rooting for the coyote. We couldn't help being impressed that it took so many people to catch one animal.

"Then I heard that he'd escaped, got out of the sanctuary. Unbelievable. He emerged on the south east side of the sanctuary and began swimming! I think that's when they darted him. But still he managed to get by the big crowd standing there, and he began running north along the East Drive. He made it all the way to the Rumsey Playfield. Then the drug really began to take effect. "But even after a circle of policemen surrounded him, he still resisted for quite a while. Finally they subdued him and strapped him on a stretcher. They took him away and that was it."

The coyote was taken to the Bronx Zoo's Wildlife Health Center where he will remain until further notice. James Doherty, the zoo's General Curator was most welcoming. "I'm delighted to know there's a coyote in New York City. It add to the richness of a place. The city is big enough to have raccoons and woodchucks and coyotes -- a great variety of animal life.

In a phone interview on Tuesday Mr. Doherty reported on the condition of the Central Park coyote. "The animal is a young male and weighs 35 pounds. He looks to be in very good condition. Nice teeth, good flesh. No broken bones. No erratic behavior that might indicate rabies.

"Ideally he'd be reintroduced into some wilderness area upstate. But most of those regions already have a coyote population and wouldn't accept him. He needs a good place with no other coyotes. The difficulty is finding such a place."

All at once I thought of a place that might serve the bill perfectly, a place with no coyotes, God knows, and a place, moreover, where the coyote would serve a useful function: Central Park itself.

The park's most intractable problem happens to be unleashed dogs. Though it is illegal to let a dog run unrestrained in Central Park, the rule is broken rampantly and, in the early morning hours, with the tacit approval of the Parks Department. Meanwhile, the great numbers of dogs running free wreak considerable damage on the park's turf and plantings. Unleashed dogs also pose a threat to the park's wildlife. Two weeks ago an unleashed dog killed a male pheasant that was the new mate of a female that had lived near the Conservatory Garden in lonely splendor for the past two years. The new pair had just been about to start a family.

When asked how a coyote might survive in Central Park the zoo's Mr. Doherty answered: "Coyotes avoid people. There'd be no reason for people to worry on their own account. He would probably ea squirrels and rats and possibly stray cats. He'd probably get dogs that were off the leash. But it would be unlikely to attack a dog on a leash with a human at the other end..."


Monday, March 27, 2006

Wild Turkey in the park

Wild Turkey in Central Park - 3/26/06
Photos by Cal Vornberger

Bob Levy writes [via e-birds]

Date: March 26, 2006
Location: Central Park, Tanner's Spring'
Subject: Wild Turkey
Reporter: Bob Levy

This news is not as exciting as the Central Park
Coyote drama of last week but it was almost as
surprising. There was a wild Turkey, a female I think,
at Tanner’s Spring in Central Park today. Bruce
Yolton, Cal Vornberger and I watched it for a half
hour or more while it foraged and drank from the
stream. At sunset it launched into the air and,
brushing into several small branches, awkwardly made
its way to a perch about thirty-five feet up. It
settled down and remained there well after dark. I
presume that is where it spent the night.