San Francisco Animal Care and Control has received a spike in calls from citizens reporting coyote sightings, and so last night called a meeting with SF Rec and Parks, community members, and wildlife expert Keli Hendricks. KTVU was on hand at the gathering at the Golden Gate Park County Fair Building, where most people just wanted to know what to do if they encounter a coyote. The answer to that is basically nothing, give the animal space, and if you've got a dog, it should be on-leash and kept from interacting with coyotes.
"There's nothing to be scared of," Hendricks reportedly told the assembled. "They're very shy animals." More coyotes are being seen, Hendricks reckons, because they're in new places. "[Coyotes] are expanding their ranges," she said. "We're finding them in more places than before....Our cities offer great habitat for wildlife, which is a good thing because they do a great job of controlling rodents." In fact, an uptick in rodents could also explain the increased coyote sightings: Rains have brought the rodents out, and they're primarily what coyotes eat.
Animal Care and Control estimates that San Francisco is home to dozens of coyotes, though their number is likely fewer than 100. That's figure, though, could be changing as we speak. It's pupping season, another possible cause of the increase in sightings.
The urban environment isn't without its dangers for coyotes. In February, one was found dead in Noe Valley's Douglass Park, KTVU and Bay City News report, likely poisoned to death by eating rats who had been killed by rodenticide. "These poisons are everywhere, and ironically, they are killing the very animals nature provides to control rodent populations,” WildCare director of Advocacy Kelle Kacmarcik observed.
Janet Kessler, a photographer and advocate of SF's coyotes who's behind the website Coyote Yipps, documented the Bernal Heights Park coyote recently. That animal is relatively well known and accustomed to people, which has become a problem: People who feed it are unintentionally endangering it, experts say, by encouraging it onto streets where it could be hit by cars.
Flipping the concerns of many dog owners, rather than threatening to off-leash dogs, the coyote is actually threatened by them (unless of course the dogs are tiny, in which case the coyote thinks they are food). Kessler shared with Bernalwood an account of a golden retriever chasing down a coyote recently. Unscathed, it escaped by jumping into a thicket. Afterward, Kessler captured video of the frightened coyote, which can be seen shaking and barking below.