Since late December, a pack — or at the very least a pair — of coyotes have been making regular nighttime noise in and around Alamo Square, even though sightings of the wild dogs remain few and far between.
While coyote sightings in Alamo Square Park are not new, the chorus of coyote howls coming from an unknown number of animals is new — and I can say this having been a resident of the area for over a decade.
One Xitter user posted a blurry photo of a coyote on one of the paths in the park on December 27, and three nights later, I recorded the sounds you can hear on this video around 11:30 p.m.
Like clockwork now, several times a week, presumably the same coyotes make noise like this — especially if there is a distant or not-too-distant siren going by, just like siren-loving dogs.
"They don't have TV so, they have to entertain themselves somehow," jokes Deb Campbell of SF Animal Care & Control. "They like to sing."
The number of animals can't really be assessed, and multiple officers at Animal Care & Control referred me to the "beau geste effect," in which the sound of just one or two coyotes can sound like many. Let's just say it's definitely two, but sounds like at least four or five.
A bit of alarm has been raised, naturally, on Nextdoor, with one commenter saying, "These wild animals do not belong in an urban environment. Somebody sooner for later is going to get hurt."
Well, the coyotes are pretty harmless to humans and tend to stay away from us, but people with small dogs certainly have reason to be concerned.
Campbell says that coyotes' "assertive" behavior can sometimes be mistaken for aggression, and the animals tend only to get aggressive or protective around pupping season, when they have a den of pups to protect.
It's not clear whether these coyotes have established a den in or near Alamo Square, and the distinctive howls have moved around a bit. Animal Care & Control says it is trying to discourage den activity, especially in residents' overgrown yards.
There is, notably, an off-leash dog park on the western side of Alamo Square Park.
"People should not be alarmed about the coyotes, but they should be aware of the animals, avoid the areas where there is known activity when walking dogs, and read and follow instructions on signs placed in active coyote areas," says SF Animal Care & Control.
Coyotes also don't often stay put until pupping season — and they have a huge range. Animal Care & Control has tagged and collared some animals and observed them traipsing from Bernal Heights down into San Mateo County and back again all in one night.
And even Sam Altman, the millionaire CEO of OpenAI, was complaining last month about a coyote who wouldn't leave his yard in Russian Hill. So, they're getting around.
Because it is coyote mating season right now, Campbell says, the coyotes may be especially visible, and the department has received "several calls and sightings" from around Alamo Square recently.
Campbell tells SFist that anyone who has a coyote sighting should report it here, on Animal Care & Control's website — and they can call the emergency number at 415-554-9400 if they see a coyote looking sick, distressed, or injured.
Photo by John Thomas