A wily young coyote led dozens of police on foot and in a helicopter on a chase through New York’s Central Park, at one point leaping over an eight-foot fence before finally being captured.
“For a coyote to get to midtown, he has to be a very adventurous coyote,” said parks commissioner Adrian Benepe.
Officials said the tawny-coloured animal, nicknamed Hal by park workers, was about a year old.
Hal proved to be quite adept at avoiding capture, jumping into the water, ducking under a bridge, and scampering through the grounds of an ice rink after authorities thought they had him cornered.
Hal was finally caught at around 10am yesterday. News helicopters hovering overhead tracked every turn in the chase and it was broadcast around the US. Benepe said a police officer shot the animal with a tranquilliser gun at close range.
The hunt began on Tuesday afternoon when Benepe, among others, spotted the animal in the south-east corner of Central Park, near glitzy Fifth Avenue, before he leaped over a fence and disappeared. Authorities said he had been hit by a tranquilliser dart, apparently to no effect.
It is unclear when Hal first arrived in the big city, but the first sightings of the animal came early on Sunday.
Hal is only the second coyote to be spotted in Central Park, Benepe said, the last being seven years ago.
Benepe said both coyotes strayed into the same area, the Hallett Wildlife Sanctuary. “It’s an area closed to people and dogs, so it’s a good place for a coyote to hunt for birds,” he said.
While coyotes do not usually present a threat to people, Benepe had warned that park visitors should keep their dogs on leashes to protect the pets.
Asked to speculate why a coyote would venture into Central Park, Benepe said: “It’s an immature young coyote … at that age they’re frisky and curious to explore the turf.”
It is not the simplest of journeys, either.
Benepe said the animals would "have to swim or cross a railroad trestle used by Metro-North and Amtrak that runs along the Hudson under the George Washington Bridge and then goes through a very wooded area.”
Benepe said the animal would be taken to a wildlife sanctuary “as soon as he is ready to be transferred”.