A coyote was spotted on a morning romp behind the Poxabogue Golf Course Friday, and state environmental officials believe it is the same one that was photographed in Water Mill last summer.
Dell Cullum, a nature photographer who trapped and photographed coyotes during a decade in Texas, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, was driving near the Sagaponack-Wainscott border behind the golf course at around 6 a.m. when he saw an animal running through a field.
“Immediately I said, ‘That’s no fox.’ ”
He followed it, at first in his car, yelling at it in the hope that it would turn so he could get a good shot of its face.
“It didn’t look at me once, and that’s when I knew it was a coyote,” he said, explaining that coyotes ignore humans.
He got out of the car and ran after it with his camera. The coyote, bigger than a fox and with the gait of a canine, ran across the road to dart into the woods. “It stopped just long enough,” he said, for him to get a photo of its face. He posted the photos on his blog on ImaginationNature.com.
The animal looked very healthy, with no sign of mange, said Mr. Cullum, a certified animal trapper. “It seems a little thick around the midsection,” he said. “I think it’s out in that field filling that belly with rodents.”
“It’s clearly a coyote,” he said. Mr. Cullum runs Hampton Wildlife Removal and Rescue in East Hampton and is also one of The Star’s contributing photographers.
Over the past year, Mr. Cullum has gotten several calls from people from Montauk to Wainscott who spotted what they thought was a coyote. Since he posted his photographs and the story appeared on The Star’s website last week, the calls have tripled.
“They know what they saw but didn’t want to say anything for fear of people thinking they were crazy or seeing things,” he wrote in an email.
The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has received a handful of confirmed coyote sightings since June of 2013, and it thinks they are all of the same individual, according to Aphrodite Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the D.E.C.
In July 2013, the D.E.C. confirmed that pictures taken by a Water Mill farmer were also of a coyote.
There is “no evidence of more than one coyote or an established population, thus the risk of a negative human-coyote interaction is highly unlikely,” Ms. Montalvo said. She said there have been no confirmed sightings of coyotes in other areas of Suffolk County or in Nassau County.
Eastern coyotes have been present in New York since the 1930s, according to the D.E.C.’s website, and been well established in upstate New York since the 1970s. They look like German shepherds, with long fur and bushy tails, but are half their weight, “measuring four to five feet from nose to tail,” the site says.
In January, Allison Lupo, a friend of Mr. Cullum’s, told him she had seen an animal that looked like a German shepherd attacking a deer on Schellinger Road in Amagansett. He set up cameras for three nights hoping to get a photograph of the animal to no avail. When Ms. Lupo saw the pictures he took Friday, she confirmed that it was the kind of animal she had seen attacking the deer.
Two weeks ago, Justin Spring saw what looked to be a coyote in a farm field off Halsey Lane in Bridgehampton and posted a comment about it on his Facebook page. He often sees animals in the field, including fox. “This was a biggish animal, a different color than a fox,” he said this week. “I’ve never seen anything like that.” He did not think to alert wildlife officials and did not take a picture. “I assumed that coyotes are on the rise all up and down the East Coast. I just didn’t realize they were in the Hamptons.”
“They’re dogs; they’re smart,” Mr. Cullum said. “They feed off of small game, pets, rodents . . . and garbage. They love garbage, and that’s what gets them close to people, and they only become an issue then.”
According to the D.E.C., coyotes eat what is readily available and “easy to find, scavenge, or catch and kill,” including rabbits, mice and voles, raccoons, white-tailed deer, birds, plants, insects, and garbage.
Unlike wolves, which form packs, coyotes mate for life and form family units that include the male and female and the young of the year, typically born four to six pups to a litter in March and April, according to the D.E.C. When the pups mature at nine months, they are “driven from their parents’ home ranges” and might travel as far as 100 miles to find a territory of their own, which might explain how the South Fork’s resident coyote arrived here.
They are not generally aggressive toward people, but are attracted by pets and can pose a serious threat to them, the D.E.C. warns.
Officials with the D.E.C. warn not to feed coyotes, to avoid feeding pets outside, and to eliminate the availability of birdseed because it, too, may attract coyotes. They warn pet owners not to let their animals run unsupervised outdoors, especially at sunset and at night.
In case of a run-in with coyotes, the D.E.C. advises acting aggressively. “Stand tall and hold arms out to look large,” its website says. “If a coyote lingers for too long, then make loud noises, wave your arms, throw sticks and stones.”
Coyotes, they said, are typically secretive in their behavior and prefer areas where they can hide, like brush and tall grass.
Mr. Cullum has coyote traps here. If he is called to trap a coyote and catches one, he would contact the D.E.C., but could not relocate it. Instead, it would be released to a wildlife rescue facility.
In the meantime, he said, “I’m not going to mess with it until somebody calls me.”
With Reporting by Carissa Katz