Coyotes Among Us

Two neighbors have reported coyotes nearby in the last few days – one on Warren Drive, and one on Clarendon x Panorama.

“A very large coyote was seen at 11:30 a.m. today across from 101 Warren,” wrote Beverly.

“On 12/22/2012, approaching Clarendon from Panorama, waiting at the traffic signal, a rather frisky coyote crossed my path, going from south to north and into the undeveloped area bordering Clarendon on its East,” wrote John V.

Someone else saw one a few days ago on Mountain Spring Drive, which is just across Clarendon Avenue from us. In the last year, I’ve seen them myself on Twin Peaks, Glen Canyon, Diamond Heights, and in the grounds of Laguna Honda Hospital. They’ve also been sighted near West Portal, the Presidio, and elsewhere in the city. I’ve posted about coyotes here before, but I thought I’d do so again.

coyote looking at dog, San Francisco

From what I’ve been told, there are only about 10-12 12-18 coyotes in San Francisco. They are territorial, so it’s unlikely the number will increase very much. We know the Golden Gate pair had pups last year. (Click HERE for a cute picture of the pups at play; it’s from the RichmondSF blog.) The one (or ones) we’ve seen may be a Golden Gate pup grown up and seeking new spaces. (Coyotes look bigger in winter, when they grow their winter coats.) Or they could be any of the resident coyotes from the territories around us.

Coyotes cover great distances in their explorations, so it’s possible to see them almost anywhere in the city. The west side is particularly good for them; they mostly take gophers and rats and mice, available in the grasslands, and they need cover to hide from dogs and people. The west side of the city has both.

Generally, coyotes aren’t much bothered by people (and are shy of them). They are bothered by dogs, who they see as competitors and a potential threat. I’m told they remember dogs who chase them. Like dogs, they probably also can recognize individual people.

Though coyotes mainly prey on rodents (and are a much better solution than poisons like the ones that killed the Glen Canyon owl), they have been known to takes cats and even small dogs. They may fight even with big dogs who chase them, which is not good for either dog or coyote. So it makes sense to be careful – keep your cats indoors especially at night, and leash your dog if a coyote is around. Generally, don’t run from a coyote; it may trigger a chase instinct. Instead, walk away calmly. I’ve found yelling loudly at a coyote usually makes them run off in a hurry. (I’ve only done this once, when I was walking in Diamond Heights at night.) If  you’re concerned about coyotes, carry a “shake can” – a loud rattle made of some pennies sealed into a small aluminum can.


[Edited to add: TV station CBS did a short video clip on Forest Knolls coyote sightings: Click HERE to see it.]

Janet Kessler, the Jane Goodall of San Francisco’s coyotes, spends a lot of time observing these animals and documenting her observations on and she’s also written an article on peaceful coexistence for the Marina Times. You can see that HERE.

The precautions below are taken from her website.

coyote poster11

coyote poster21

4 thoughts on “Coyotes Among Us”

  1. My daughter, looking out her window, saw one today around 4pm walking on the hill behind the Woods townhouses on Clarendon.

  2. I often see “warnings” like this that imply that coyotes won’t bother you if left alone. Please be aware that coyotes will lie in wait to attack without provocation — this happened to me twice while living in the east bay (where the coyotes are larger and more aggressive). SF coyotes seem much less threatening, but people need to be aware of the danger. In both attacks, for me, the coyote was hiding by the side of a hiking trail, and leaped out while we approached. My dogs are submissive and turned to get closer to me, and (in both cases) the coyote chomped my elderly dog on the rear end as she was fleeing — resulting in 60+ stitches one time and 80+ stitches the second time. My dogs are 45-ish pounds — not small. People should be on the lookout for coyotes in the area and avoid areas where they’ve been spotted. Anyway, love the blog!

    Webmaster: Thanks for the compliment, and the warning. The coyotes are among us, and they’ve been spotted everywhere in the Bay Area, so avoiding them isn’t possible. Many people enjoy seeing wild animals in our city – we have raccoons (which can also be dangerous, don’t touch) and skunks as well as coyotes. We may even have bobcats; there have been unconfirmed sightings in the city, but they have definitely been seen North, South and East of us. There’s been a lot of removal of thickets and bushes over the last ten years, and it may be pushing these animals into greater visibility. I think we will need to be careful – but honestly, it’s wild drivers who are a lot more dangerous than wild animals. Here’s a Huffington Post article that looks at both sides of the issue:

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