BY JAMES FARRELL
A contingent of bus drivers who work around LaGuardia airport is speaking out to try to prevent the euthanization of three coyotes roaming around the airport.
Five members of the family of coyotes living in Astoria, near Rikers Island and LaGuardia Airport, have already been euthanized by the Department of Agriculture since first being documented over the summer. As the Queens Tribune has reported previously, the family gained some attention among conservationists for being the first documented breeding family on Long Island.
When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that they had ordered the euthanization of the animals, they cited them as a “potential threat to our employees and members of the community.” Many voices from around the city spoke out.
At a November Manhattan press conference, for instance, Manhattan Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright said she would try to save the coyotes, and a local activist named Jean Shafiroff offered to pay for their relocation.
And as the Port Authority’s plan to euthanize the remaining coyotes continues, employees of AirServ, the employee bus service that transports workers around the airport, argue that the coyotes never posed a threat—and they say that other employees agree.
“[The Port Authority] are posting that they’re a threat to the community and stuff, and they’re no harm,” said Rose Ortega, a driver for AirServ. “They don’t mess with nobody.”
She added that she thought the Port Authority was planning on relocating the coyotes—not euthanizing them—and was disappointed to see the euthanizing.
Ortega said that many of the employees she drives around were also upset that the coyotes had been killed. She added that she wasn’t sure if somebody complained to the Port Authority about the coyotes, or who may have seen the coyotes as a threat, but that the employees she drives around generally said that the coyotes shouldn’t have been killed.
“If I was to gather up signatures, every employee is so mad here about what they’ve done to these animals,” she said. “I could gather up a lot of signatures.”
Mohamed Adam Basir is another one of those employees. Also an AirServ driver, Basir said that he understood some of the potential problems that coyotes could pose in a residential area. He has witnessed them tearing up garbage, for instance, and while he didn’t know anybody personally afraid of the animals, he understood why some people might be.
“They should move them,” he said. “But you know what? They shouldn’t kill them.”
Like Ortega, Basir was not afraid of the coyotes.
“I’ve worked around the coyotes at night; these coyotes don’t bother us,” he said. “All the employees for AirServ don’t want the coyotes killed,” he added.
Margarita Moreno is the director of the AirServ program at LaGuardia, and she agreed with Basir and Ortega. She described her relationship with the coyotes in emotional terms: She said she remembers hearing the father cry the night that the five coyotes, including four from the litter, were killed.
“I cried that whole night with the father,” she said.
Moreno developed a fondness for the coyotes after leaving food hidden for them—she was afraid to feed them directly because she didn’t want them to become acclimated to human interaction, which the Port Authority and local wildlife experts have said is a possibility. (Human interaction can often lead to negative incidents.) She said that it was normal to be afraid of wild animals, but added that other animals were in the area causing the same problems, like raccoons.
“I saw them from babies,” she said of the coyotes. “I spent time with them every single night. They walked next to me, and they were never aggressive with me.”
In a statement, the Port Authority said that their position remains that the coyotes were “euthanized to keep nearby residents safe after the coyotes became acclimated to humans, increasing the possibility of an attack” and that the actions were in accordance with the law.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x127, email@example.com or @farrellj329.