In April, two dog owners lost their pets — in the same area of Corona Heights Park — after each of their respective animals was attacked by a coyote, prompting SF wildlife officials to remind residents that they should heed coyote awareness signs and take needed precautions during coyote denning season (which will last through early September).
SF’s coyotes grew incredibly confident — brazen, even — during the pandemic's shelter-in-place ordinances, taking to car-free streets and green spaces; they even popped up around downtown, which is rare for these otherwise shy animals. While it's unclear just how many coyotes call SF home, the best estimate from San Francisco Animal Care & Control (SFACC) put the number of coyotes in the city at around a few dozen individuals.
Coyote Alert! Coyotes are active in Corona Heights Park and Saint Mary's field this week. Keep dogs on leash and cats indoors. If you see a coyote, walk away and avoid the area. https://t.co/2posIsGJh5 pic.twitter.com/kl8TCtJJeL— SF Animal Care & Control (@SFACC) April 21, 2022
For pet dogs, especially the smaller ones, coyotes represent a real threat. In April two dogs — one a pure-bred Pomeranian, the other a mix of the same breed — were attacked and killed by a coyote in the same area near the Vulcan Stairs at Corona Heights Park.
As initially reported by the Chronicle, Steve Boullianne described the fatal attack onmhis dog Fozzie Bear on their usual morning walk on April 5 near Corona Heights Park as "painful"; witnessing the mauling left Boullianne replaying "that 10-second movie in my head 200 times an hour." Just a few weeks later, another coyote — though it's unclear if it was the same animal — killed a second small dog in the same part of Corona Heights Park. Reports from SFACC described that the owners let the Pomeranian out to pee when a coyote ran up and quickly made off with the animal, even though the owners were very close nearby.
Though these incidents are no doubt "heartbreaking," they aren't, however, unnatural. These coyotes are simply existing and hunting as they normally would; it's our job to respect that fact and practice the right precautionary measures to mitigate "preventable" attacks on our pets.
“It’s heartbreaking, and all the time it’s very similar stories of how it happened,” said Deb Campbell, a spokesperson for SFACC, to the newspaper. “A dog will be off-leash, or someone will let a dog out to pee off-leash, and there’s a coyote in the vicinity that will take it. It’s heartbreaking and preventable and we certainly wish that these things never happened.”
On average, the City of San Francisco records somewhere around four coyote attacks on pet dogs each year. While it's still not clear if these two recent attacks represent a greater, more frequent trend, Campbell notes that it's a sign to pay attention to coyote awareness signs — the same signage that the animals, themselves, have been photographed walking right by — and keep your dogs leashed in wooded areas.
For pet owners who really want to ensure their fur babies are safe from the maws of hunting coyotes, this porcupine-like vest might be a worthy purchase.
Photo: Getty Images/GMA