New York and New York City itself is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and the hub of many economic and foreign interests around the world. New York is hardly a place where one would expect to find wildlife. What people often misconceive about New York is that it goes beyond the massive city and that infamous skyline… It leads to more nature the further inland you go and it can be deceivingly dense in wildlife- even in that big city!
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Seals Dolphins and Porpoises
Coyotes in New York State
The coyote has been present in New York state at least since 1920. As with its western cousin, the eastern coyote has been the object of much controversy as well as curiosity. Those who hunt deer view the coyote as a competitor and a threat, while others believe coyotes rely mainly on smaller mammals and carrion for their diet. Some individuals are concerned that the livestock industry, particularly sheepherders, will suffer from the coyotes’ presence. These concerns have resulted in recent efforts, to date unsuccessful, to remove all protection from the coyote, and in some cases to pay bounties to reduce their numbers or eliminate them.
The eastern coyote is considerably larger than its southwestern cousin. The largest individuals are as big as smaller timber wolves. Adults may range from 35-45 pounds and some large males may exceed 50 or 60 pounds in body weight. Eastern coyotes have a German shepherd-like appearance, which sometimes leads to confusion about their identity. Typically-colored coyotes are grizzled gray on their back, upper sides and neck. This distinguishes them from most dogs, which are usually a solid color. A small percent are black or reddish-blond, the latter being the more common deviation. Coyotes can be distinguished from most dogs based on their habit of carrying their tail at or below a horizontal level when traveling. At a distance it is more difficult to tell coyotes from wolves, but up close, wolves have a more massive head, less pointed muzzle and ears, and larger feet.
Most coyotes breed during the month of February. Their young are born 60-63 days later, usually in a ground den (often a renovated woodchuck or fox den), but sometimes in hollow logs or rock caves. Litter sizes vary from 2-10, with 5-6 being the average. Larger litters are usually born when coyote populations are well fed or their numbers are low. It is this tendency to produce more young when populations are low that makes it difficult to significantly reduce coyote numbers. Scientists have found that it would require removing nearly 70 percent of the population every year to achieve sustained population reduction…
Coyotes are firmly established throughout all New York counties except Long Island and New York City. Their numbers have been estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000. Coyotes are abundant throughout New York state. As with most wildlife populations, numbers will fluctuate over time as food, weather and disease conditions change.
Seals, Dolphins and Porpoises
Believe it or not, seals are found on the shores of New York! These Seals are found in New York from late fall until late spring, with the highest concentration generally occurring around April. Seals “haul out” – or leave the water to rest on sandy beaches or rocks – to regulate their body temperature, socialize, give birth, and molt. Hauling out in groups also helps seals avoid predators. Up to five species can be seen locally, but harbor, gray, and harp seals are the most common.
Harbor seals are the most abundant and are easily recognizable by their round head and blunt snout. They haul out in rocky areas and on beaches and are known for their resting “banana” position. They eat fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, which are especially important for nursing mothers during the 4 to 6 weeks they are with their pups.
Gray seals have a “horse-like” appearance, especially as adults. They sometimes share areas with harbor seals and can dive up to 1,500 feet for one hour. Pups are very vocal to help their mothers find them. Gray seals eat an array of fish, squid, octopus, and crabs.
Harp seals are largely an Arctic species, like the hooded and ringed seals that are more rarely seen in New York, they are present here each year in small numbers. They can be seen within the New York City area and farther up the Hudson River. Adults molt each spring while they eat small species of fish like capelin and invertebrates. They are capable of diving up to 1,000 feet for 16 minutes.
Bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, pilot whales, and Risso’s dolphins can often be seen off the south shore of Long Island. Sightings of bottlenose dolphins are the most common since they live closer to shore in coastal waters like harbors and bays. The majority of dolphin sightings occur in the warm summer months when the water is productive.
On average these species live at least 40 years and feed on various species of fish and squid. All dolphins use echolocation to hunt for food and live in groups.
Bottlenose dolphins are the most well-known and social species, using unique click and whistle signatures to identify individuals in the group. Pilot whales are the second largest species of dolphin, more regularly found at the shelf edge in deep water, and often associate with other species. Risso’s dolphins have no teeth in their upper jaw and use suction to feed on squid. They carry scars on their body that increase with age from teeth raking between individuals.
Harbor porpoises are the only porpoise species typically found in New York’s marine waters, seen locally in bays, estuaries, and Long Island Sound. On average they’re approximately 5 feet in length and weigh around 150 pounds, and they can live up to 24 years feeding on fish like herring and mackeral, squid, and octopus. Harbor porpoises are listed them as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need for the state. There are seven porpoise species worldwide.
Raccoons are among the most widespread mammals in New York State. The adaptable raccoon can be found everywhere, from the most remote forest to the crowded inner city. Raccoon populations often are more dense in large cities than in the wild, but abundance varies widely in different types of habitat and different parts of the state.
Raccoons are “well-rounded,” often plump, with reddish brown to grey fur. Adults weigh an average of 15 pounds, and are readily identified by alternating rings on the tail and characteristic black “mask.”
Raccoons are important furbearers, providing income and recreation to hunters and trappers in New York State. Many people enjoy watching or photographing raccoons. Some people feed them, but this is unnecessary and unwise. Keeping raccoons as pets may be harmful to both humans and raccoons, and is illegal.
Raccoons feed mainly at night. They eat fruit, nuts, berries, small animals, and insects and also will feed on pet food, garbage, and garden crops.
Female raccoons look for den sites in late winter. Litters of one to seven young are born in April and May. Young raccoons open their eyes about three weeks after birth, and often announce their presence with mewing, twittering, or crying sounds. They nurse for about six weeks, then leave the den to follow the mother until September or early October when they disperse and establish their own territories.
Raccoons are protected by law. No one may possess a raccoon without a license, and licenses are not issued for pet wildlife. Hunting or trapping raccoons requires a license. The law allows unlicensed homeowners and farmers to destroy raccoons that damage property. However, property owners should try eliminating food and shelter before killing the animal.
Except where temporarily reduced by rabies or distemper, raccoon numbers may be very high. While densities in rural areas may be 20 – 40 raccoons per square mile, raccoon densities in some developed parts of the state (e.g. Long Island) may exceed 100 per square mile.
Raccoons can become a nuisance if people unknowingly supply food or shelter for them. They can be attracted by food available in gardens, fish ponds, pet feeders, or garbage or by cavities that might offer shelter.
Though rarely seen by most New Yorkers, black bears are valued by hunters, photographers, and wildlife watchers. Many people enjoy just knowing that bears are present in New York State. For many, black bears symbolize wilderness and wildness, but increasingly, bears can be found in semi-rural environments, agricultural areas, and occasionally in urban centres!
New York Black Bear Population Facts:
• Currently estimated at a minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting
• 50-60% inhabit the Adirondack region
• 30-35% inhabit the the Catskill region
• 10-15% inhabit the central-western region.
• Bears are now well established in many other areas, including the Tug Hill, Hudson Valley, and across the Southern Tier.
• Transient bears are routinely encountered throughout the Lake Ontario Plains, Mohawk Valley, and St. Lawrence Valley.
• With the exception of Tug Hill, these other areas include a greater proportion of agriculture or have higher human densities, making them less suitable for bears due to the higher likelihood of human-bear conflicts.
Black bears are an important and natural component of New York’s ecosystem. Whether you live or recreate in the bear country, please help maintain and protect the bear. At the same time, protect yourself and your property by not feeding bears and by reducing bear attractants.
The moose is the largest member of the deer family (Cervidae), and the largest land mammal in New York State. Bulls weigh from 600 to 1,200 pounds and stand up to 6 feet tall at the shoulder. Cows weigh from 500 to 800 pounds. Both sexes have long, grayish-white legs, dark brown or black bodies, and a dangling flap of skin under the throat called a bell. A mature bull’s bell is much larger than those of cows and younger bulls. Cows have light brown faces and a white patch of skin under their tails, while bulls have dark faces and no white patch. Only bulls grow antlers, beginning in March or April. The antlers, which regrow annually, may reach a width of more than 5 feet on mature bulls and are shed from November through January.
Moose occur in boreal forest areas of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, they are found from Alaska eastward to the Atlantic Ocean, and south into the Rocky Mountains, northern Great Lakes, and the Northeast. In New York, most moose are located in the northeastern part of the state in the Adirondack Mountains and the Taconic Highlands along the Massachusetts and Vermont borders.
Moose are primarily browsers, feeding on the leaves, twigs, and buds of hardwood and softwood trees and shrubs. An adult moose eats 40 to 60 pounds of browse every day. Favored plant species include willows, birches, maples, balsam fir, viburnums, aspen, and mountain ash. In the winter, moose may strip and eat the bark from small trees, usually maples and aspen. In the summer, moose feed heavily on aquatic plants in ponds and wetlands, wading into the water and reaching beneath the surface for plants. They also depend on these wet areas to escape from biting insects and hot weather.
Ideal moose habitat consists of a mosaic of upland mature mixed forest, open areas created by burns or logging, and wetlands. The regrowth of browse species after a fire or clearcut offers nutritious food in large quantities needed by moose. Small clearcuts with some softwood cover retained are better than large clearcuts of more than 100 acres.
Below are some of the factors which contribute to Moose Fatalties:
Predators: The black bear is a significant predator of moose calves less than nine weeks old. Coyotes may also take an occasional calf. There are no predators of adult moose in New York State, but elsewhere in North America, wolves are their main predator.
Parasites: Moose are susceptible to a parasite known as brainworm that infects the nervous system and usually causes death. Other parasites such as liver flukes and lungworm can weaken a moose and make it susceptible to secondary infections. In other states with a higher moose density, winter ticks have become the main mortality factor for moose, but these ticks have not yet been documented in New York. The winter tick spends three life cycles on an individual animal, feeding on its blood during each cycle.
Vehicle Collisions: Vehicle collisions are a significant mortality factor for moose, especially where road densities are high. Moose are so tall that an automobile usually passes under the body, causing the moose to come over the hood into the windshield and onto the roof. Moose are most active from dusk to dawn, when their coloration makes them difficult to see in the roadway and their eyes are usually above the reach of car headlights. About one to two percent of moose/car collisions result in a human fatality. DEC is working with the Department of Transportation to develop warning methods for motorists in moose country. Research in other states has shown that vehicle speed is the most common factor leading to moose collisions, so the best way to avoid hitting a moose is to slow down, especially from dusk to dawn.
I hope you enjoyed reading this Blog about Wildlife in New York! This is only the tip of the iceberg as there are many more amazing animals that I could’ve mentioned that live in New York! Did you find this blog interesting? You might then enjoy reading about Wildlife in California or Wildlife in Hawaii!
If you’re interested in visiting these animals, these are a few operators which may be able to assist you on this quest!