River Otter at Sutro Baths

I read the SF Birds Yahoo Group, though I’m an indifferent birder at best. It’s always interesting to know what’s going on with our feathered residents and visitors. Birder Dan Singer recently posted a most unusual sighting.

This visitor, though, isn’t feathered. It’s a river otter, at Sutro Baths. No one on the list remembers seeing one here before, though a sea otter’s been sighted in the area a few years ago.

I passed on the word to Janet Kessler, the photographer who specializes in urban wildlife, and soon she was out there with her camera. With her permission, I bring you these pictures.

Her website is at UrbanWildness.com – if you’re interested in wildlife pictures, most of them taken right here in San Francisco, that’s a treasury.

Stow Lake Photo Swap

At Stow Lake yesterday, we came upon a couple looking at something. We stopped to see what it was. There on the ground was a red crayfish. We’d never seen one at Stow Lake before, and neither had they, though they visit often. I pulled out my camera.

“You have a camera?” the lady asked. “We came from someplace else, so we didn’t bring ours.”

Even better, my companion had an iPhone. He could take the photo and instantly send it to their email address.  Which he did.

Here’s the iPhone picture of the crayfish.

(We’re still wondering what it’s doing there, on the dry dusty path.)

When they emailed back to thank us, they sent us this enchanting picture of three baby Great Horned Owls in Golden Gate Park.

When I asked for permission to publish it, they agreed. In a follow-up they said, “One of the really nice things in the park is sharing wildlife, especially with people who may not have ever seen owls, or herons, or bats…

Couldn’t agree more. We’re so fortunate to have this wonderful park ten minutes from our neighborhood.

Lost Dog – Yorkshire Terrier – July 24, 2012 [FOUND]

Edited to Update (July 27, 2012): He’s been found! Here’s what I heard from Tess:

“Great news! My niece, the original owner, went with me to look on Christopher Street. She called his name several times and he ran out of the woods and into her arms.

“Thank you for your help in my search.”
I am so pleased to be able to report another happy ending.


This picture’s been posted on lamp-posts in our area. It’s a missing two-year-old male Yorkie, lost on Tuesday at Devonshire and Oak Park in the Forest Knolls area. If you see this little dog, please call Tess at (415) 640-1975.

(I just spoke with her July 25th at 8.30 p.m., the dog is still missing.)

Pedigree Dog Food Recall

Nola posted this alert on the neighborhood Yahoo Group, and I’m giving it a signal-boost because it could be important:
On Saturday, June 30, Mars Petcare announced the voluntary recall of some of its Pedigree canned dog food products due to a potential choking risk. Affected products may contain small pieces of blue plastic.
To learn which products are included, please visit the following link:

Pedigree Dog Food Recall

Please be sure to share the news of this alert with other pet owners.
Following the link, I found that it’s three “Weight Management” varieties of dog food.  They’re the following varieties and lot codes:
  • 2310034974  PEDIGREE +® Healthy Weight Premium Ground Entree in Meaty Juices
  • 2310001913  PEDIGREE® Weight Management Meaty Ground Dinner Beef & Liver Dinner in Meaty Juices
  • 2310023045  PEDIGREE®  Weight Management Meaty Ground Dinner Chicken & Rice Dinner in Meaty Juices

If  you’re giving your dog this product, you might want to follow the links for the details. It links to the website dogfoodadvisor.com has an alert system to warn dog-owners who sign up with them about recalled dog foods.

Thanks, Nola!

White dog at Diamond Heights Safeway (San Francisco)

I was just at the Diamond Heights Safeway (around 2.45 on 2 June 2012), and saw a small white dog gleefully scampering around the parking lot as though it had gotten out when it wasn’t meant to. I looked around for the owner, but didn’t see anyone.

It wouldn’t let me get close enough to check its collar for tags, so here’s a photo. In case anyone is looking for it.

Joel Engardio, Supervisor Candidate, Takes a Position on Dogs

I’ve posted here before about Joel Engardio, one of the candidates for Supervisor for District 7. (Sean Elsbernd is termed out this November.)

At the time, it was because of his forest-friendly video. (Click on the owl picture to watch the 2.5 minute video.)

He’s made another 2-minute video, this one about dogs in San Francisco. I’m not a dog-owner, but I am pleased our neighborhood is dog-friendly. As I said in In Praise of Dog-Ownerspaws on the street mean eyes on the street.

Click here for Joel Engardio's dog video

If you’d like to find out where this candidate stands – clicking on the picture above will take you to the video.

Missing Black Dog (Glen Park) – FOUND

Edited to Add: Just heard that this dog was found at 3 a.m. this morning!


This dog has gone missing from the Safeway park above Glen Canyon, where she got into a chase with two coyotes.

Xena is all-black, smooth coat, about 25 lb., pointy ears. She was last seen at the edge of Safeway Park in Diamond Heights. She’s very, very shy and won’t come near you, so please just call [ETA: Removed phone number, no longer needed.]

(Information and photograph provided by Avrum Shepard of the West of Twin Peaks Council.)

Please keep a lookout for this dog, especially if you’re walking your dogs anywhere near here.

Coyotes, Glen Canyon Park, and Runaway Dog

Glen Canyon Park — both the canyon itself and the flat “Safeway Park” above it and adjacent to the Diamond Heights Safeway parking lot — is many things to many folk. Kids play on the grass and the play structure, there’s a ball-field, I’ve seen police cadets training by running around the paved trail of the Safeway Park. It’s a gopher haven — and a de facto dog play area where off-leash dogs run around and socialize and chase each other in circles.

It’s also part of the territory of a pair of coyotes. I’d posted about an encounter I saw between a dog and the coyotes recently. (This picture is from that event.)


Yesterday’s encounter didn’t go so well. I wasn’t there, but heard about it from someone who was. Around 10 in the morning, two dogs being walked in the park spotted the coyotes. The “dogs chased after the coyotes — who then turned around and chased back. The dogs ran off and away.”  Spectators helped hunt for the dogs; one was found, but the other is still missing as of this post. [ETA: Found!] Quoting from a message we received from Avrum Shepard of the West of Twin Peaks Council:

Xena is all-black, smooth coat, about 25 lb., pointy ears. She was last seen at the edge of Safeway Park in Diamond Heights. She’s very, very shy and won’t come near you, so please just call … [ETA: Phone number removed, not needed now].

I really hope Xena gets back unscathed and in good shape. [Edited to Add: She was found the following morning, around 3 a.m., according to Avrum.]


Coyotes don’t have much interest in people, unless someone is feeding them — and that, thankfully, doesn’t appear to be happening in San Francisco. I actually saw a coyote one night in the park. It was hunting gophers. I was taking a walk. I caught it in the beam of my flashlight, and yelled. I needn’t have bothered yelling; the moment I flashed my light on it, it was gone.

However, coyotes are very aware of dogs, which are from the same animal family. (They’re canis latrans, dogs are canis lupus familiaris.)  Dogs are potential rivals, potential enemies, even potential friends (though it’s probably not a good idea to permit or encourage such friendships).

What this means is, Glen Park shouldn’t be treated as an off-leash area, even in the day time.  The easiest way to keep a dog safe is to keep it leashed; it won’t be tempted to chase after the coyote pair even if it spots them, and a coyote is not going to chase a dog that’s up close to a person.

Rec and Park have put notices everywhere, saying there are coyotes around. They’ve put big notices saying it’s not meant to be an off-leash area for dogs. I can see why people ignore the signs. Dogs need a place to play, and this is convenient and friendly. It’s a delight to watch them romp, and one of the reasons I like to walk there.

But it’s not a good idea. If it goes on, it’s only a matter of time before it ends badly for the dogs or the coyotes or both.

(Clicking on the notices will enlarge them.)

Coyotes and Dog, Unleashed

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 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.

Night Walk with Fog and Dog

It was late for a walk last night, and the fog had wrapped our neighborhood in its soft blanket. Yet the night called me, and out I went.

It was magical. The fog softened and dispersed the light of the streetlamps. As I walked up by the forest, I could hear the rain… except it was dry where I stopped on the sidewalk. In the forest, the trees made their own rain from the fog, and it pattered onto the leaves of the understory like a heavy shower. This is the Cloud Forest effect. Under the eaves of the forest, the cloud-rain was heavy enough to flow down the street and into the gutter. Inside the forest, the undergrowth and the duff absorbed it all. (If you walk in the forest — be prepared for mud on some of the interesting trails.)

It was late enough that I shouldn’t have expected anyone to be out there. But I’d have been wrong. In 30 minutes, I encountered 4 people, all walking dogs. As I said once in a post, the dogs of Forest Knolls make us all safer. Paws on the street mean eyes on the street.

I Brake for Raccoons

The other evening, I was driving down Clarendon Avenue. It was soon after dark. Right in front of Clarendon Elementary, a small animal darted across the road, fetching up against the chain-link fence that runs down the median there.

“Darn cat!” I said, stomping on my brakes. But it wasn’t a cat, it was a raccoon, and a second one already huddled against the fence on the median.

I presume this time, the two critters got across safely, either around the fence or over it.

I wonder, though, couldn’t the City make some small gaps under the fence in the interests of safety for the animals living in our neighborhood?

Coyote Pupping Season… Take Care

We live in coyote country, and it’s that time of the year… pupping season. We don’t know if the coyotes around here have pups. They’ll still be too small to come out just yet.

What we do know is that the mom and dad coyotes will be very protective of the pups, if any. Janet Kessler has a detailed post on her Coyote Yipps blog about this, and what precautions people should take. Especially if they’re out with their dogs.

Coyotes are feeling particularly edgy and protective of their space right now. When the pups are brought out of the dens, and when they begin to explore further afield, the coyote parents will defend a much wider area around the pups and they will do so more fiercely than usual. We need to give them plenty of girth so that they feel safe…

She goes on to recommend:

If you have a dog, keep walking on, away from the coyote. Try not to stop and stare because this sets up an opportunity for the dog and coyote to communicate through body language and eye contact — it almost always involves mutual dislike. If the coyote feels threatened, he/she may stand his/her ground with a warning display which includes what I call the “Halloween Cat” display: arched back, hackles up, snarly face with teeth bared, head down, pacing or bouncing: this is a message — it is the only way a coyote can make you understand what its needs are.


And here are some specific suggestions from her blog-post:

  • As you retreat from an upset coyote, make sure that you walk away, don’t run. Running might incite the coyote to chase — it’s an instinctual reaction.
  • An angry and loud voice, along with sharp noises or flailing one’s arms might hurry them on their way.
  • Clapping ones’s hands, or shaking a small 4-ounce juice-size can with coins in it works.
  • The newest idea that has been suggested is carrying a small fold-up umbrella with you if you walk in a coyote area and feel a need for added protection. Just flashing the umbrella open and closed a few times will startle a coyote off!

Charles Wood, who watches a coyote family in Los Angeles, guest-blogs on Coyote Yipps. He has a description of parental behavior that’s interesting to read:

Dad is still looking a bit thin.  I came across them both as I was leaving their field.  Mom was partially in cover.  I moved about twenty feet away from my leashed dog to get a less obscured picture of her.  Seeing an opportunity, Dad quickly approached my dog Holtz.  Dad disregarded Holtz’s barking and then charged.  I snapped a quick picture and then moved to stand between him and Holtz.  His opportunity blocked, Dad broke off his charge, moved back, calmed down and did some investigatory sniffing.  Throughout the event, Mom stood at the ready.

Again, the point to note is that coyotes react much more to dogs than they do to humans.  Usually, they avoid humans. Janet Kessler notes:

I’ve never had a negative encounter with a coyote. But I have watched other people have them. Every incident I have seen has been caused by a human with their dog who inadvertently or purposefully refused to respect a coyote’s space.

Cats, Lies, and the Smithsonian Catbird Study

Like many of us in this neighborhood, I like birds and animals, including cats. So I was dismayed to see the recent  SF Weekly with a huge cover picture of a demonic cat. It contained an article by the controversial journalist Matt Smith, using as fodder a press release from the Smithsonian about a study done in 2004.

That study implied that cats are the main cause of death of small birds. It’s become a talking point for those advocating stronger measures against feral and outdoor cats.  But did the study’s results justify it? No way.

It sounded pretty bad. According to the website of the Smithsonian, “The main determining factor was predation, which accounted for 79 percent of juvenile catbird deaths within the team’s three suburban study sites. Nearly half (47 percent) of the deaths were attributed to domestic cats…”  This makes it sound like cats killed a huge number, over a third of the birds. What huge number was it, actually?  Well, six.

The study followed 69 young catbirds (the name is a coincidence, it has nothing to do with cats really) by putting tiny radio transmitters on them. In the five months of the study (May-September 2004),  42 died from predators, glass-panes, or disease. Cats killed only 6 of them.

Here’s the real picture:


Working in three Maryland suburbs filled with homes and gardens, the  researchers tagged a total of 69 baby catbirds with tiny radio-transmitters. They tracked the birds until the bird was found dead, or its signal disappeared, probably meaning it had moved on.

Of the 42 that died, the researchers figured 33 were killed by some kind predator. For 19 of them, the researchers thought they could make a good guess at what kind of predator got the bird. Besides the 6 actually killed by cats, they thought another 3 probably were because they were found headless. But it turns out that many hunting birds (owls, hawks, for instance) also bite off the head first, so assuming cats did it is a stretch.

Unfortunately, when the study was published, the abstract (the summary that’s the only thing most people read) said:

Why is this misleading?  Two reasons. First, it includes the headless birds that probably were killed by something else. Second, it compares the number with “known predation events” — which just means the number of cases where they guessed at who killed the catbird. What they should use is a comparison agains the whole bunch of tagged birds: 6 out of 69. That would be 8.7%.  The graphic below represents the real story.


And since it’s in the nature of predators to go for the weakest and slowest, it’s more than likely that if the cats didn’t get them, something else would have… an owl, a hawk, a rat, or disease.

What really hurts our birds is destroying their habitat. Everywhere in the city, bushes and thickets are being removed, even in the so-called “Natural Areas.”  Some ground-nesting birds like the quail are particularly affected. It’s easy to blame cats, especially feral cats. Though cats do hunt birds, they’re far more likely to get rodents. But small birds are prey to everything that hunts: hawks, owls, coyotes. They need places to hide and nest.

Not that I’m particularly advocating outdoor cats. Quite aside from the whole bird issue, they are themselves at risk from predators, whether with two legs or four legs or four wheels. As their reflexes slow with age, they face greater odds.

[A longer version of this article appeared on the Sutroforest.com site.]

Cat volunteers?

A cat-lovers group is looking for volunteers. They care for a feral cat colony nearby.

This would involve coming once a week,  once a day, and takes 30-40 minutes of putting food and water in the feeding areas and loving some great cats.

If you’re interested, please email me at fk94131 at yahoo dot com, and I will put you in touch with the volunteers who  manage this feral cat group.

Cat Found in Sutro Forest

We’ve been sent a report on a new cat that has shown up in the forest in the Belgrave/ Stanyan area. It’s probably someone’s pet. We don’t have photos, hence the public domain drawing on the right; but here is the description:

“It’s clearly some sort of purebred Siamese, maybe a lynx point? Big tawny body, very Siamese face and large ears. I was wondering if you’ve heard about any lost cats? This cat must have belonged to somebody. If you hear of anything, please let me know. I’ve just spotted it once, but the construction workers have spotted it a few times. The cat seemed quite fearful, sort of slinking along atop a fence, then down into the woods.”

(There’s construction work going on at Belgrave; a home-owner on the forest edge is doing a major re-model.)

If it’s your cat, contact us at fk94131 at yahoo.com and we’ll try to put you in touch with the people who’ve seen it.

Missing Pekinese Dog (Found)

Update: I received word today that the dog has been found.

Update 2: So yesterday, I actually met Koko and Iina for the first time. The little dog was entirely as affectionate as advertised… she came over and jumped up to make friends. I’m so glad she’s home.


One of our neighbors has lost her dog. Here’s the posting from Craig’s List:

My Dog’s name is Iina. She went missing on 10/4/10 Monday 1PM in Inner Sunset Area.
She is five years old, female. Small dog(about 11 pounds) with blond hair. Very Very Very affectionate. Loves people. She is wearing a collar with name and phone number of her veterinarian in Novato CA. Although I strongly believe in good in all people, there is a reward! No question asked.. please please call or email me 415-713-6650 or coko13@gmail.com Thank you!

The photographs (also from Craig’s List) show this little blond Pekinese dog. Please keep an eye out for her.

Update: A reward of $500 is being offered.

Lost dog in Contra Costa: FOUND!

UPDATE:  The little dog Lula has been found and is home.


Someone’s little Bichon Frise mix was stolen in a Contra Costa robbery. They’re offering a reward for her return. I know Contra Costa isn’t in our neighborhood, but anything we do to boost the signal (spread the word on the internet) may help locate her.

Here’s material from their website. The website also provides a donation button so you can add to the $500 reward being offered. If Lula isn’t found, the money will be donated to an animal-loving cause.


Help Find Lula!

Lula is the beloved pet of Rob and Julia Cassidy. She is small and fragile and NEEDS TO TAKE MEDICATION EVERY SEVEN DAYS for a medical condition…without it she may not survive. On August 6th, 2010 somebody broke into Rob and Julia’s home and stole several items including their precious puppy. Currently there is a $500 reward offered for her safe return. You can make a reward donation on this site via PayPal.

Please spread the word because time is of the essence and she needs to be back home with her family. You can help by printing and distributing the fliers, send everyone you know the website and post it on FB. If someone has seen her or knows where she is – please call the number on the flier – there will be NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

We are on KTVU! Check out the video and share it with as many people as you can!

If you would like to email Rob and Julia please use helpfindlula@yahoo.com
There will be no questions asked – strictly confidential – they just want the safe return of Lula

Golden Gate Park: More Police Patrols

Most of the time, we think of Golden Gate Park as pretty safe, and most of the time, it is. But recently, there were two unusual incidents.

  • Two dogs, believed to belong to homeless people living in the park, got loose and attacked visitors. One dog was shot by the police, the other was captured. (It happened near Lloyd Lake, Area 1 below.)
  • And separately, one homeless man stabbed another; he claims self-defense, and the case remains open. (Behind the Conservatory of Flowers, Area 2 below.)

In response to this, the police are stepping up their presence in the Park. Here’s the Captain’s Message from the Park Station newsletter:

Park Station is working together with Park and Rec and the Park Rangers to increase patrols in Golden Gate Park. In order to keep Golden Gate Park safe for everyone to enjoy, Park Station and Richmond Station will be doing daily early morning patrols in the park to address illegal camping and sleeping in Golden Gate Park.

Good news from our monthly Compstat meeting this week; our year to date stats for Park Station show a reduction in Part 1 Violent Crimes of 14 percent.

Working together with the community has helped us reduce crime through strategic planning, community information sharing, and teamwork. Thank you for your continued support and input.

Captain Teri Barrett
Commanding Officer Park Station

Hillside with Black Cat

Today, out walking in the neighborhood, I saw a black cat on the hillside. It was too high to get close to it, but here are a couple of photographs. Is this a neighborhood cat? If not, could it be the long-lost Sebastien?

Edited to Add: Someone sent me this comment: “No, that is not Sebastien….that cat has been around forever and is being fed by a neighbor on Warren.”

Another Happy Ending

For those of you who’ve seen this Lost Cat poster in our neighborhood for a gray and white cat: it’s been found. Emmet McDonagh posted a message to the neighborhood Group to say they’d found the cat and were watching it until its owner picked it up.

This community is wonderful about pets.

Meanwhile, the black lost cat Sebastien is still missing. He may have been spotted hiding in shrubbery on the other side of Twin Peaks, but the identification was unsure.