Out for a walk around 7 p.m. this foggy evening, I heard someone urgently calling his dog. I looked round, and saw a coyote bounding uphill above the trail. Another coyote lay low in the bushes, observing the situation below.
The dog followed along the trail after the coyote, happy tail and curious nose; it was in an investigative and playful mood. Fortunately, it obeyed the summons and rather reluctantly returned to its people, who promptly leashed it. The coyote watched it leave.
The people with the dog stood on the steps a little, watching the coyotes, then left. A jogger came up the trail; I stopped him and told him about the pair of coyotes. He nodded, turned around and went back the way he’d come.
I also retraced my path to avoid disturbing them, and found a place where I could watch them from the road above. It felt amazing — here I was, in the middle of a city, watching coyotes in the same way as I’ve watched the Deccan Dhole in a sanctuary in India, or a hyena in the Masai Mara. The coyote hung around the path for a while, sniffing and marking, probably to reclaim its turf from the dog. (Coyotes really notice dogs; they recognize them and react to them.)
Suddenly, it bounded from the path into the brush, and I knew someone must be coming. Sure enough, a jogger ran past on the same trail. Not sure whether he noticed them or not, but he kept going, and nothing happened. (He was dogless.)
I was surprised the coyotes were out so early and stayed so visible. Before this, I’d only ever seen them late at night, and people have reported seeing them early in the morning. (I posted about that, with guidelines for Coyote Caution.)
I guess what this means is — if you’re taking your dog into coyote terrain (which is pretty much all the Natural Areas around here, as well as Golden Gate Park) — it makes sense to keep it leashed, even if it’s not early morning or late at night. This dog was sensible and obedient and returned when called. Some dogs would want to engage with the coyote, which could end badly for one or both.
Janet Kessler, who is the Jane Goodall of San Francisco’s coyotes, has recommendations for dog-walkers in coyote territory:
IF COYOTES FASCINATE YOU…
If you’re interested in coyotes, I highly recommend Janet Kessler’s brilliant blog, Coyote Yipps. Scroll down for some neat video; I loved the one of the coyote hunting some underground critter — a gopher? It has a surprise ending.