Satya has ceased publication. This website is maintained for informational purposes only.

To learn more about the upcoming Special Edition of Satya and Call for Submissions, click here.

back issues


August 1999
The Concrete Jungle

By Terri Lujan


Wild animals are not only found in the wilderness. They often make it into the city. Terri Lujan offers a sample of animals at-large in New York City in recent years, how they were dealt with, and tips on how to handle your own close encounters.

Wild animals—escaped or lost—running loose in New York City are rare. When an incident does occur, there are usually only two results—either the animal is killed in a panic, or else the creature is apprehended in a humane way. Some people live in harmony with “exotic” animal companions, but if they aren’t careful, they can make a fatal mistake when handling such “pets”. Here are some stories to contemplate.

In June, Narco, a one-ton “raging” bull escaped from a rodeo (the American tradition of cruelty) in Queens. Witnesses watched as the terrified bull ran through the streets and was pummeled with more than 40 bullets—shot by police—before ultimately dropping to the ground, dead. Just this past winter a full-grown tiger was spotted wandering around a New Jersey town. Police shot and killed the large cat “for the safety of residents” explained Sergeant Rick Ferrarelli. Last year, a 19 year-old man was killed in New York City while preparing to feed his 13-foot Burmese python. It was reported that the snake mistook the owner for live food (snakes have poor vision) and struck at him.

A coyote was captured in Central Park and shipped back upstate earlier this year—the first time in a century that a coyote had made its home in the Park. About this time last year Elsie, a 5-month old Hereford calf, escaped from Ely Live Poultry Market, a slaughterhouse facility in the Bronx. The 300-pound calf was safely lassoed by police officers and taken to her new home in upstate New York, to Green Chimneys, a sanctuary for abused children and animals. Four rams were also found at this market living in squalid conditions and were sent to live with Elsie. Recently, a frightened doe was saved by cops after she was chased by a pack of dogs in the Bronx. She will also be joining Elsie and ram family upstate. This time last year a rabid skunk was captured in Van Cortlandt Park—also in the Bronx. Contrary to popular belief, most wild animals are not infected with rabies and no person in the area was known to have been exposed to the skunk.

Then there is Ripper, a 10-year-old dog-wolf mix who in December 1996 was allowed to remain with his owner on Staten Island after the City found that the dog did not pose a threat to the public’s health or safety, even though NYC Health Code does not allow wolves or wolf hybrids to be kept as pets.

Just in case, you’re wondering why New York City appears to be turning into Wild Kingdom, consider the following. Interaction between people and wildlife is becoming more frequent as human population grows and suburbs push out into neighboring woods and forests. As suburbs merge with cities, deer and other creatures find the lawns and trash cans of neighborhoods irresistible treats and can encroach on urban areas.

What to Do

Killing “wild” visitors has become socially unacceptable or questionable, and there are strong community attitudes concerning the welfare of animals. So, what should you do if you find yourself in contact with a wild animal in the City? Here are some tips:

  • A skunk walks into your garage. Skunks have terrible eyesight, so if you move slowly and quietly, the skunk will hardly notice you. Make a path of something smelly leading out of the garage and he will leave.
  • Your neighborhood beaver is chewing your trees. Wrap hardware cloth around the bases of the trees to deter the noshing.
  • There’s a bat in your house. Open a window or exterior door and the bat will locate the echo-location and fly out.
  • You find a coyote in your back yard. Coyotes are generally afraid of people and almost never attack humans. They are attracted to places where they can find trash, fruit or small animals. Keep your pets indoors and keep trash lids securely fastened. It also helps to pull ripe fruit off of near-by trees.

In the end, it’s best just to use commonsense. Ask yourself four questions: Is my action in the best interest of the animal? What are the realities and myths about its behavior? Why am I and why is the animal acting the way we are? Am I trying to reduce anxiety about human/wildlife interaction? Finally, what is the bottom line? Choose the humane solution!

Terri Lujan is an animal activist who lives in Brooklyn with her companion, an eight-year-old Chihuahua named Baby. This article is dedicated to the memory of Webby, an abandoned duck who was found and cared for by Rita (manager of the Veterinary Medical Center of Brooklyn) and her staff. Webby and Baby were best friends.


All contents are copyrighted. Click here to learn about reprinting text or images that appear on this site.