We’ve known for years that coyotes are all around us in Forest Knolls – I wrote about it here when a couple of neighbors reported seeing them. (LINK: Coyotes Among Us)
But this time, neighbor Michelle Lukban got this really neat picture (published here with permission). For everyone who’s been jealous of Bernal Heights coyote pictures, we got ours! [Edited 3/27/17 to correct attribution of picture]
BEING CAREFUL AROUND COYOTES
Janet Kessler, the Jane Goodall of SF’s coyotes, has for many years been observing, photographing, and reporting on our San Francisco coyotes. Her website is at CoyoteYipps.com. She’s also involved with Coyote Coexistence, an organization that helps people and coyotes to co-exist safely.
Coyotes are not very concerned about people, and are generally quite shy of them. But they are very interested in dogs. Coyotes are territorial animals, and dogs could be considered interlopers. Also, some dogs chase coyotes, and so coyotes may feel threatened. Often the coyote will remember which dog it was. Don’t let your dog do this. It could be dangerous for both animals. Finally, really small dogs – and cats – may be viewed as prey. This is rare, but it has happened. If you have pets, the video above may be useful.
A couple of days ago, neighbor Greg Flowers posted this on our Nextdoor site. (It’s reproduced here with permission.)
“After my experience last night, I plan to behave much differently when I am met by a coyote (or two) on the Sutro trails or on our neighborhood sidewalks. My usual MO is to respect its space and maybe snap a few photos of it as past encounters have been limited to in the woods of Mt. Sutro, and they usually run away.
“I took my dog out last night for a walk around the neighborhood around 10:45p following Christopher Dr east. As we were passing 15 Christopher, there was a rustle in the bushes and my dog lunged into the darkness. I pulled him back and we continued a few steps and then I saw it was indeed a coyote. It crossed the street into the woods and we made it to Clarendon before I turned and saw there were now two coyotes stalking us.
“Now I’m concerned and my dog is very interested in playing or giving chase. I tried to make myself look big and menacing, yelled a bit and made like I was going to charge them but they continued toward us so I then made the mistake of turning and continuing down Clarendon to get to Oak Park, looking over my shoulder constantly. No cars or people were out at this time and the fog + blood moon combo + coyotes stalking me really affected my nerves. The coyote in front crossed Clarendon as if it was planning to circle around to surround us and so when I got to Oak Park we turned the corner and sprinted all the way back to Christopher and Oak Park til we got home. That wasn’t the smartest choice but they didn’t follow me back into the neighborhood which was a huge relief.
“I’m posting this as a learning experience for myself and hoping it will help raise the awareness about the coyote presence around these parts. The closest I let them get to us was about 20 yards and my dog is 60lbs and these coyotes appeared larger than him. Because they were unaffected by my dog’s size and my scare tactic, I looked online and found this explanation of how to ‘haze’ coyotes so that they will fear humans again: Coyote Hazing: Guidelines for Discouraging Neighborhood Coyotes
“Hopefully we can make a neighborhood effort toward keeping coyotes, all our pets, and ourselves safe and that starts with coyotes maintaining a healthy fear of humans.”
A COYOTE WATCHER’S OBSERVATIONS
As readers of this site know, I’m a believer in coyote coexistence. This report was concerning, especially in the context of recent reports in which coyotes attacked dogs (one fatally) at Pine Lake (behind Stern Grove), a popular dog-play area. So I reached out to Janet Kessler, the Jane Goodall of San Francisco’s coyotes. She’s been studying our coyotes for years, and maintains a great blog, CoyoteYipps.com where she puts up her observations. Why were we suddenly getting this bold behavior?
“There seems to be a change in their behavior going on, but I’m told that it’s not due to habituation, it’s due to the drought. All urban coyotes are habituated by definition, yet they still keep a healthy distance (can’t use habituated and wary at the same time). For dogs, it’s a different story — and it’s going to be the same story whether a coyote is habituated to humans or not. Habituation to humans has nothing to do with coyotes approaching dogs — especially when they are curious about them.
“[Greg] did the right thing by moving away from the coyote — that’s how you diffuse a situation and maintain control — you are simply not going to engage. If a coyote follows… he’s just checking out your dog, gauging whether it’s a threat to be worried about, and making sure it is a safe distance away.
“We’re seeing more coyotes because of the drought. Because of the drought, there are fewer gophers and voles in the coyotes’ home range, so they are expanding that range as they hunt for their favorite foods. However, as they hunt in new areas, they will opportunistically take free roaming cats.”
This is also a concern; I know some people in Forest Knolls do have outdoor or indoor-outdoor cats. I think it’s also important for people with small dogs to be especially careful. Coyotes may see them as rivals or as prey, and they’re much more vulnerable. Humane Society guidelines recommend keeping cats indoors, and not letting small dogs off-leash in the backyard at night. Here’s their article: Coyotes, Pets and Community Cats.
From Janet Kessler: “And, yes, coyotes have been approaching dogs, much more than we’ve seen before. Walk away always, and keep walking (never run) away from the coyote, even if he follows.”
There’s more useful information on the CoyoteYipps website, here: CoyoteYipps.com
It also has some great photographs and observations of coyote behavior.
Sometimes, I cruise around the neighborhood at night in hopes of seeing our resident or visiting wildlife. It’s easier from a car; they get spooked by people walking. Last night, I was rewarded with a skunk.
The skunk looked small, perhaps a kit that’s just gone out on its own. It wasn’t the least bothered by the headlights. I got a couple of iPhone pictures, not good ones but definitely a skunk!
I never got to see its face. When I rolled down the window, it realized I was looking at it, and it decided to move along. In a minute, it scrambled up the hillside into Sutro Forest, and all that was left was a sound of scrabbling in the bushes.
I love these yellow flowers that appear in spring in San Francisco and vanish a couple of weeks later. Many others do, too, but consider it a guilty pleasure because they think they’re bad for bees and birds and animals. Since we often have them around Forest Knolls, I’m re-publishing a shortened version of a post about oxalis from SFForest.org (with permission).
The oxalis season is over, and the perky yellow flowers have vanished for another year. These Bermuda buttercups will be back next year to herald the spring, bringing joy to those who love them, irritation to those who hate them, and Tier I herbicides targeted at them in San Francisco’s so-called “Natural” Areas.
THOSE WHO HATE OXALIS AND WANT TO POISON IT WITH GARLON
The article quoted Jake Sigg, the retired SF Recreation and Parks gardener who is considered the doyen of San Francisco’s native plant movement. He hates oxalis pes caprae, which he considers extremely invasive. The article quotes him as saying that, without intervention, “in X many years Twin Peaks would just be one solid mass of yellow, and there wouldn’t be any other plants there…” The article suggested that an oxalis-dominated landscape “drives away coyotes, hawks and owls that feed on grassland foragers, and the situation is especially dire for endangered Mission blue butterflies, which depend heavily on native wildflowers.” Most of those ‘facts’ about oxalis are mistaken as we’ll explain below.
Mr Sigg’s theories align with those of the Natural Areas Program (NAP) of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD), which uses the herbicide, Garlon (triclopyr) to battle oxalis despite its dubious efficacy for the purpose. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment San Francisco’s Department of the Environment classifies Garlon 4 Ultra as Tier I: Most Hazardous. It’s listed as HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE (their caps). Since oxalis is the main reason NAP uses Garlon, the alternative we propose is – don’t use Garlon or anything else on oxalis.
First, a little about the actual natural history of oxalis. This plant doesn’t set seed in California, and spreads entirely by sending out roots and forming little bulbils (like tiny potatoes) underground. It’s usually found where the soil has been disturbed by activities such as road-building, gardening, or trail-building. In some cases, the disturbance come from landslides or something similar. It can’t stand frost. If we do nothing, it would tend to die down rather than spreading uncontrollably.
In disturbed landscapes, it can spread fast. For this reason it can be a nuisance in gardens. People don’t want to leave their gardens alone for years to let nature take its course with the oxalis, and not every garden design includes brilliant yellow as the dominant color for a few weeks. The only way to eradicate it in the short term is to dig it out carefully every time you see it, and make sure you get most of the bulbils. Or use strong herbicides, which may not work.
In a natural landscape, though, it’s a different story and here’s why.
1) OXALIS IS GOOD FOR BEES AND BUTTERFLIES
Oxalis is actually an excellent plant for bees and butterflies. When blooming, it provides “copious nectar.” In fact, it generously gives away its nectar. Since it doesn’t set seed, it doesn’t benefit from pollinators – but it’s a food source for honey bees, bumblebees and butterflies.
In fact, a recent 2014 study shows that plant communities with exotic plants had more plant species as well as more pollinators, that pollinators didn’t prefer native plants, and that even some specialist pollinators depended on introduced plant species.
It’s true the Mission Blue butterfly needs (native) lupine as its nursery plant. (It doesn’t depend on any other native wildflowers – only three varieties of lupine. Incidentally, one of the key nectar sources for the Mission Blue butterfly is an invasive non-native Italian thistle: Carduus pycnocephalus).
Lupine has been planted on Twin Peaks as NAP attempts to reintroduce the Mission Blue butterfly there. But lupine is also a plant of disturbed areas, which means that NAP must maintain it or it will die out as the area stabilizes. An SFRPD report on the reintroduction project said “unmanaged habitat deteriorates quickly.” Presumably, they don’t use Garlon near the lupine patches, since it would likely kill that too. Despite what the Bay Nature article implies, it’s not oxalis that’s the issue. The real problem is another native plant, the coyote bush which takes over grasslands in a natural succession.
2) OXALIS IS GOOD FOR WILDLIFE
Oxalis bulbils are a food source for wildlife. Gophers and other rodents eat them. In fact, the Bay Nature article says, “Their spread is abetted by pocket gophers and scrub jays, which have been spotted carrying the bulbs and caching them in the ground—effectively planting them in new areas.”
Since gophers are a foundation species in the food web, being dinner for predators from hawks to coyotes to great blue herons, these plants actually provide habitat benefits whether or not they’re flowering, because the bulbils are there all year.
Where there are gophers, the predators follow. Like the coyotes in these pictures, which clearly haven’t been driven away by a landscape dominated by oxalis.
3) OXALIS DOESN’T LEAVE THE GROUND BARE
The article says that oxalis leaves “bare ground during the six months of the year oxalis doesn’t flower.” That’s not true either.
The spectacular yellow bloom of the oxalis – valuable because it the mass of color attracts honey bees and bumblebees – gives the impression that it’s the only plant there. But though it visually takes over the landscape when it’s in bloom, it naturally grows interspersed with grasses and other plants. Like in the picture above.
In fact, oxalis tends to enrich the soil with phosphorus, which is good for grass.
So when it finishes blooming, as it has by now – you don’t get bare ground. The picture below shows the same area as the first picture in this article – but it’s after the oxalis bloom is over. It’s a grassland.
4) OXALIS HAS LITTLE IMPACT ON “NATIVE” PLANTS
One argument – related to the ‘bare ground’ argument – is that oxalis takes over grasslands and destroys them, particularly the native grasses. However, grasslands in most of California including San Francisco are dominated non-native grasses. The change occurred over 100 years ago, when these grasses were planted for pasture. So the grassland that NAP is defending with herbicides are primarily non-native anyway.
But anyway, what’s the evidence that oxalis is actually damaging native plants?
It’s true some European studies do suggest that an increase in oxalis is associated with a decrease in native plants diversity -though whether it’s a cause is unclear. It may just be benefiting from human activities that disrupt the landscape. Another study put oxalis head-to-head with a native annual grass, lolium rigidum. The native grass tended to dominate. Their conclusion: “Oxalis is a poor competitor. This is consistent with the preferential distribution of Oxalis in disturbed areas such as ruderal habitats, and might explain its low influence on the cover of native species in invaded sites.”
The California Invasive Plant Council rates its invasiveness as “moderate,” considering it as somewhat invasive in sand dunes and less so in coastal bluff areas.
In San Francisco, every place where oxalis grows is already a disturbed environment, a mix of non-native grasses and plants with native plants (some of which have been artificially planted). Here, oxalis appears to grow happily with other plants – including, for instance, the native California poppy in the picture above.
5) KIDS LOVE IT AND IT’S EDIBLE
Children love oxalis, both for its pretty flower and for the sour taste of its edible stems. Even small children love gathering posies of Bermuda buttercups (though picking flowers is technically prohibited in Natural Areas). The flowers are surprisingly hardy for wildflowers, and in a glass of water last quite well as cut-flowers.
The plant is edible, and its tart leaves make a nice addition to salad. People enjoy snacking on its sour stems. Besides Bermuda buttercup, it’s also called ‘sourgrass’ and ‘soursob.’ It does contain oxalic acid (as does spinach, for instance), and so you probably wouldn’t want to make a meal of it. Though in South Africa it’s made into soup.
Adding Garlon to it is probably a bad thing.
From our current evidence, there’s no sign that oxalis has a negative impact on wildlife, and plenty of evidence it’s already part of the ecological food web of our city. The evidence also suggests it’s not having a negative effect on other plants in San Francisco either. Lots of people find this flower attractive; one writer described it as the city smiling with Bermuda buttercups.
[Webmaster: The original article goes on to argue that the city should not use Garlon to attack oxalis – it’s expensive, toxic, and pointless.]
It was the book and movie, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill that first drew my attention to the marvelous fact that San Francisco has parakeets. Those birds originated in South America. They’re related to the now-extinct Carolina Parakeet, which was found in North America until the early 1900s, being declared extinct in 1939.
I was interested to learn, while reading a birding group, that there’s a different parrot in town. Parrots are very social birds, and they need company. Apparently, the stranger can recognize a parrot when he sees one, so the new bird is hanging out with the locals.
How wonderfully cosmopolitan is our city?
The story and photographs below are from M. Bruce Grosjean, and are published here with permission.
AN INTERLOPER SURVIVAL STORY – M. BRUCE GROSJEAN
Back in October 2012 I reported seeing a single Rose-ring parakeet that seemed to be trying to attach itself to the larger population of our local Red-masked parakeets. Whereas the flock itself is made up of birds that are originally from Ecuador and Peru, this Rose-ringed individual comes from Asia and Africa. The fact that he recognizes they’re all family is fascinating to me.
It was predicted by some observers that the Rose-ringed would not survive all that long, so every time we saw it over a span of about a year and a half we were surprised. But then sometime around a year ago we stopped seeing it altogether and slowly began to believe that this bird indeed couldn’t survive.
So it was a complete surprise a few days ago when I spotted him feeding with a small flock of our local Red-masked birds again. By all appearances he looks quite healthy but still doesn’t seem to get along with the other birds much better than before, and yet he survives – I’m amazed!
[This flock was sighted near McLaren Park. “FYI,” Bruce wrote me as he sent these pictures over, “Some time ago Mark Bittner (The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill) told me that he’d seen this bird on Telegraph Hill, which indicates it does get around.” Here are a few more pictures of the little flock with the outsider bird. There are higher-resolution pictures at Bruce’s Zenfolio page, HERE.]
Around midnight, it’s usually quiet in Forest Knolls, the only sounds coming from the house itself. Outside, you might hear the wind soughing in the trees and humming in Sutro Tower. But tonight, a bird chirped tentatively in the backyard. At first I thought it was just a songbird disturbed on its perch, or responding to the bright moon.
But it continued, growing louder and insistent. Opening a window to listen, I wondered if a raccoon had caught a bird. It sounded distressed. I could see nothing in the dark, my yard was in shadow.
I ran down to turn on the garden light. And then I saw it – not a bird at all, but a skunk, right up against the back fence in a corner. When I shone the flashlight on it, it emerged from the shrubbery. And then, out came another one. Mating season!
They stuck around for a while, but annoyed by my watching them, they left through a hole under the fence. There was mildly skunky smell. Love was in the air.
I was leafing through a sheaf of pesticide use reports from the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, as I sometimes do. It’s mostly about herbicides sprayed on plants. The parts about animals usually relate to rodents and yellow-jackets.
Not this report. Some people had seen an alligator. In Stow Lake.
I checked the date on the report, just in case it was April Fools. But no, this had a June 2014 date on it.
It wasn’t a very big alligator – two feet, said the report. SFRPD called Fish and Game, and Animal Care and Control. But though they went out to look a couple of days in succession, there was no alligator seen. They closed the case until there’s another sighting.
The dead Barn Owl we found and took to WildCare for rodenticide testing, Patient #1754, was found, indeed, to have died of rat poisoning.
Many people don’t know that when a hawk or owl or other predator eats a poisoned rodent, that animal gets poisoned too. Please STOP using rat poisons (rodenticides)! These poisons are killing the very animals, like this Barn Owl, that naturally control rodents.
The Barn Owl was found to be internally toxic, diffusely discolored and badly hemorrhaged throughout. There was evidence of a heavy load of the rodenticide brodifacoum in her system — enough to kill her.
Shockingly, over 86% of tested WildCare patients show evidence of exposure to rat poisons! These animals are eating poisoned rodents and carrying varying loads of toxic poison in their systems as a result. Rat poison used by residents of San Francisco is having dangerous and detrimental effects on the wildlife of our area. A Great Horned Owl was found dead last year due to the same rat poisoning.
Rat poisons kill by making whatever animal eats them bleed to death internally – slowly and painfully. While the poisoned rats or mice are still alive, they (and their deadly load of poison) can be consumed by other predators including cats and dogs. Rodents are the basic food source for a number of different predators all the way up the food chain. It is a terrifying prospect; to kill many animals while targeting only one. We need to find better ways to live well with wildlife.
Barn Owls are one of the most common owl species in the country, but seeing one, especially in the City, is always a treat. These silent nocturnal hunters often appear completely white against the night sky as they glide over open spaces in search of rodent prey. A family of Barn Owls can eat over 3,000 rodents in a single 4-month breeding season, which makes them a magnificent source of rodent pest control, but also one of the most common victims of secondary rodenticide poisoning. Barn Owls nest early in the season, usually producing eggs sometime between January and March.
A special thanks to everyone who made a contribution to the testing, especially to the San Francisco Forest Alliance for their substantial donation.
I’ve seen barn owls very occasionally in our area. They’re beautiful. I am so sorry this happened.
Another year, another dead owl in Glen Canyon Park. Last year, almost to the day, I wrote about a dead Great Horned Owl. This time, it’s a barn owl. It may have been poisoned by eating rats that had been poisoned with a rodenticide. Barn owls are wonderful at keeping rodents down, since they eat almost nothing but mice and rats – but when the rodents have been poisoned, the owls die.
By Check: Send it directly to WildCare, 76 Albert Park Lane, San Rafael, 94901.
This is relevant not just to Glen Canyon, but to all neighborhoods, including ours. We’ve seen barn owls here. Rodenticides kill not just mice and rats, but animals up the food chain: owls, dogs, cats, coyotes, hawks.
There’s an initiative to limit the use of some of the most destructive and dangerous ones: see WildCare’s Rodenticide Diagnostics & Advocacy Program . If you have additional questions about rodenticides, you may contact Wildlife Solutions Manager, Kelle Kacmarcik who is coordinating this effort. You may reach her at 415-456-7283, ext. 23.
Please help save our owls and other animals and birds!
I’d gone for a walk toward Tank Hill, the other evening, when I saw a shape scurrying across the road. Raccoon! And sure enough, it was Garbage Night, and there was the overturned trashcan. As I approached, I made out its tail, sticking out of the trashcan, and then, as it heard me, it came out and tried to decide whether to stay or run.
The light was poor, and the picture worse, but here you are. (It scampered off before I could get anything better.)
Meanwhile, our latest solution seems to be holding up – two crossed bungees, snagged outside the lid hinges on one side, and on either side of the main lip of the trashcan lid on the other. Like in this picture.
Walking around the neighborhood on garbage nights, we’ve seen other solutions.
One neighbor drilled a hole in the lid, and attached a strap with a bolt and washer. They then snagged the strap to the bar below.
But the solution that looked simple and ingenious was the one that tied up the trashcans with a bow, like shoe-laces in a larger size. Because it’s rope, not bungee, it doesn’t stretch, so presumably it’s difficult for the raccoons to pry off.
Today was a day of intermittent sunshine and beautiful clouds. In the evening, a misty fog blew in and Stow Lake looked like something out of a romantic historical film. You half expected to see a lady on a white horse, or an armor-clad knight.
But even without the fantasy, it’s an interesting place at twilight; you never know what you’ll see. (The downside is that my current camera, which hates low-light conditions, doesn’t get very good pics.)
By the time we got there, most of the crowds had left. Only a few late walkers like us wandered around the lake. The last boat of the evening paddled toward the jetty. The mallards, geese and Muscovy ducks circled the edges of the lake hopefully before the last visitors disappeared.
A gull near the Boathouse hopped down to the edge of lake and came up with – something. It was reddish and scrawny and didn’t look like a piece of sandwich or candy. It brought its catch ashore to deal with it, and I got a closer look. It was a small red crayfish. I wouldn’t have recognized it, except that some months ago, I actually saw a much bigger crayfish at Stow Lake. The gull gobbled it down before I could even whip out my camera.
A flight of birds passed overhead, looking somewhat like swans and calling to each other. Then I realized it was actually Canada Geese, bleached by mist and twilight. They swept around and landed on the lake.
From Strawberry Hill, a Great Horned Owl called softly It sounded tentative, almost thoughtful. Probably just waking up and wanted its coffee.
On the other side of the lake, we noticed some black-and-white critters contrasting with the broad yellowish bare path on Strawberry Hill. Though the light was now quite poor, I looked carefully and realized it was a Mama Skunk with two kittens, hurrying along the path and occasionally detouring off it. Then I saw a bushy tail on our side, but it quickly hid amid the rocks at the lake-edge. It may be in the picture below – or not.
We passed the old stone bridge, and then, on cue at 7.55 p.m, I saw a bat, followed soon by several others. I tried for a photograph, but as usual, got only some smudges. (My technique is to point my camera in their general direction and keep clicking madly.) Spot the bats?
The geese took off in small flocks, flying away to an unknown destination – maybe the Botanic Garden. It was so quiet I could hear the whistle of the wind in their wings.
Further along, the city noises returned – the rush of traffic along the 19th avenue intersecting the park. It was back to our car, and back to the real world.
Several neighbors suggested using bungee cords to keep them closed. Some were kind enough to send a detailed explanation of how to bungee a trashcan so the raccoons couldn’t open it. So we duly got some cords, and fastened down the lids of the green “compostables” bin, and the black “landfill” bin. (We didn’t bother about the blue bin; we figured recyclable paper and plastic and cans wouldn’t interest the critters.) And it worked! I added a note to my previous post to say so.
Until it didn’t.
A few nights later, they pushed over the green bin, and then deftly moved aside the bungee cord enough to open the lid and drag out its contents. Now what? we wondered. Someone suggested boring a hole through the lid of the trashcan and putting a chain through it.
Instead, we decided to try a double bungee, two cords on each bin.
So a few nights ago, I heard the now-familiar crash. They’d pushed the trashcan over. But this time the bungee cord held, and the bin stayed shut. We hurried out, and saw a couple of raccoons scamper off. We may have a solution.
If we do, it’s this:
Fasten each bin with two bungee cords in parallel, hooked over the handle, and the bar on the other side that’s used to lift the trashcan over the truck. You may have to open the hooks a little with pliers so they can grab the bars; at least we did.
Remember to replace them every time you put something in the trashcan. My experience is the raccoons come around 1-5 a.m., but who knows? Maybe they come earlier on some days and some places. [Edited to Add: The other evening, they showed up before 10 p.m.]
Remember to remove the cords in the morning before the garbage trucks come round, or they won’t clear the garbage.
Of course, it’s a lot easier if you can just keep the trashcans in your garage, and put them out only on the morning of Garbage Day. But if you have two cars parked inside, or a garage full of Stuff, it may not be feasible.
This post is reprinted with permission from SFForest.net
Our area does get coyote visitors, and so do Twin Peaks, Laguna Honda, and possibly Sutro Forest. The video linked below has pointers for co-existing with coyotes.
As frequent visitors to our urban wild-lands and parks probably know already, coyotes are part of our city’s wildlife. They travel over considerable distances alone or in family groups, so you could actually see them anywhere (though wild-lands where they can hunt gophers are probably the best bet). And – this is coyote pupping season. Pups have already been seen in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere.
A “HOW-TO” VIDEO ON COYOTES AS NEIGHBORS
It might be helpful to know as much as possible about what behavior to expect from them, especially in relation to ourselves and pets. For a one-stop informational video presentation — the most up-to-date there is — please view CoyoteCoexistence.Com‘s new video, Coyotes As Neighbors: Focus On Facts. Here’s the video:
If you have specific questions or issues, you may contact them at coyotecoexistence at gmail.com for one-on-one assistance.
Sadly, Oskar the dachshund who was poisoned by the strychnine-laced meatballs, has died. The veterinary clinic did their best to save him, but lost the battle.
The poisoner/s remains at large. There’s a $5,000 reward for information leading to their arrest. This dastardly crime could affect almost any animal or bird or even human – the police determine there was so much strychnine they advised against handling the meatballs without gloves. [Edited to Add: If you have information, call the police at (415) 242 3000 – Lieutenant Pengel or Inspector Nannery – or the Animal Legal Defense Fund at (707) 795-2533, ext. 1010]
Meanwhile, Oskar’s treatment was hugely expensive. Already facing the tragic loss of her pet, his owner shouldn’t be left holding the bill for a crime that hits all of us as a community. I’m not a dog-owner, but I am using my donation to protest this horrible act. If you would like to do the same, here’s the Paypal link.
The veterinary clinic, Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services, notes on their Facebook page: “Donations can be submitted through the paypal site, as well as in person at the hospital via credit card. We regret that at this time we cannot accept checks. “
[Edited to Add: They’re at 1333 9th Avenue, San Francisco, California 94122; the phone number is (415) 566-0540 and they’re always open.]
[Edited to Add 2: In response to some questions from readers, I asked AIMSS what the target amount was, whether the funds would go directly to reducing the liability of Oskar’s owner, and what would happen to excess donations if the target was crossed. Here’s what AIMSS said:
“Hey, Thanks for helping Oskar’s mom! So Oskar’s bill was capped by the hospital when it reached $26,000. All funds raised go directly to Oskar’s medical cost. If we go over the target amount we will donate any additional funds to SF Aid for Animals.” ]
Here’s a little night visitor to our house… I took this picture with a flashlight in one hand and a camera in the other.
For a long time, I’d assumed that the tall green trashcans – the ones that interest the raccoons because they contain the compostable food leavings – were actually impervious to wildlife if they were properly closed. Then this video on the Coyote Yipps blog clearly showed that was not true.
Well, I figured, at least the coyotes in our neighborhood hadn’t learned to do that. The only time I’d seen them in trashcans was when a neighbor overstuffed one so it wouldn’t close, and the raccoon figured the diner was open for business. Then, a few weeks ago, garbage night rolled around, and so did the raccoons. Though we were careful to shut our trashcans properly, they managed to push over the green bin and make a huge mess.
We added a couple of rocks to the top of the bin, and that was that, for a few more weeks.
Then, a few nights ago, I heard a 4 a.m. crash. I knew what it was: The raccoons had managed to overturn the can despite the rocks. I hurried out, worried both that they might have been hurt and that they would make another huge mess.
They weren’t, and they hadn’t. They bin had fallen forward and the lid held back most of the trash. The raccoons had walked into it and came out with a piece of moldy bread. I spot-lit the critter with my flashlight and took the photograph. Then I yelled some rude things in Racoonish to drive them off, righted the can, wedged it in a corner, and replaced the rocks.
I think it’s time Recology figured out a way to fasten the garbage cans. After all, raccoons aren’t exactly rare in this city. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if bungee cords or some kind of clamp would work.
[Edited to Add: Bungee cords are working thus far. Thanks, everyone who offered suggestions and instructions!]
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.
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.
Please NEVER feed coyotes. A FED COYOTE IS A DEAD COYOTE.
[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 www.coyoteyipps.com and she’s also written an article on peaceful coexistence for the Marina Times. You can see that HERE.
We’d gone for a walk to Pacifica Pier last month. It’s about 20 minutes from here, but feels like another world. When you walk all the way out and look down at the sea, it’s almost like being on a ship.
It was late in the afternoon, and the fishermen were beginning to think about leaving. Suddenly, a [brown] pelican descended on the railing, quite fearlessly looking around for handouts.
I took a few snaps, then realized it was banded. I moved in closer, and could see the band was prominently marked K15.
It apparently knew the drill. A couple of people gave it their bait fish as they left.
One fisherman told me, as he packed up his gear, that this particular bird was often here. He’d been told, he said, that it was a youngster, and born late in the season. Mortality rates were high for such late-hatched birds.
I wonder if that’s true, and also wonder who banded the bird. It’s clearly meant to be read from a distance.
(If anyone knows, comment here or email me? I tried posting on the SFBirds group of Yahoo, but they only permit San Francisco posts.)
As we were leaving, we saw a couple of wildlife rescue people armed with net and a carry-box, rounding up an injured gull on the beach. I felt like cheering. (If you happen to read this, rescuers, thanks for your work!)
[Edited to Add: Later, I found out about International Bird Rescue. They have a form to report blue-banded birds on their website, so I did. Here’s what they wrote back.
K15 is one of our celebrities. It hangs out at the Pacifica Pier a lot and unfortunately gets fed. He has every ability to care for himself but he likes the snacks. I am attaching some things for you and one is the poster for the banding project. K15 is our poster bird. K15 originally came into our rehabilitation clinic in Cordelia on June 23, 2011 with pouch lacerations and he was in a weakened state. He was a first year bird and was rehabilitated and released on July 26, 2011 in Alameda.
K15 has been reported 10 times since his release. It’s doing really well but I really hate people feeding it. That makes them habituated and that always ends up bad for the bird. Fingers crossed!
Thank you so much for reporting the bird. I love your blog.
These are “second generation” poisons, and cause death by internal bleeding. They’re both very potent, and are dangerous not only to rats, but to all mammals: cats, dogs, and small kids. And, as we’ve seen – birds, especially owls and hawks.
The antidote is Vitamin K, but it can take a 4-week course of treatment to cure a pet or a child.
The common brand names:
Brodicfacoum: FINAL, JAGUAR, PP-581, WBA 8119, d-con, Havoc, Ratak, Talon
Bromadiolone: Boot Hill, Bromone, Contrac, Maki, Rat-XB, Super-Caid, Super-Rozol
[Edited to Add: More information about the pesticides.]
In San Francisco, the SF Department of Environment permits the use of Bromadiolone on city-owned properties in the form of “Contrac All-weather Blox” — but only in a very restricted way:
For use only in City-owned sewer lines, San Francisco International Airport Terminal Areas, or for commercial lessees on city properties that are not adjacent to natural areas. In commercial establishments, use of product shall be a last resort after other, less-toxic measures have been implemented, including sanitation and trapping, and only where a significant public health hazard is recognized. In all cases, monitoring shall be used whenever feasible to minimize rodenticide use.
The other chemical, Brodifacoum, is not approved for use on city-owned properties.
The problem is that these chemicals are legal. San Francisco has a “Don’t Take the Bait” program in which they’re trying to get retailers and consumers to co-operate in not using the most dangerous formats for these poisons – but they’re still widely available.
Some of these poisons deliberately have delayed action, so that rats – who are pretty smart – will not realize that the bait is poisonous. That means that they go off after eating the bait, and then die over a period of days. They could die inside walls or under floors – or by being eaten by a hawk or owl or coyote or cat or dog when their weakness makes them easy prey. Then the bird or animal that eats them is at risk for poisoning. This happens a lot.
Sometimes, baits are set out in open trays, where any animal (or kid) who samples it can be poisoned.
A few weeks ago, the Glen Park group had news of a Great Horned Owl found dead in Glen Canyon. There’s a well-known pair of owls that nest there every year, and typically raise two or three chicks. Neighbors fear this may be the male of that pair.
Of course people were upset, and they raised money for a necropsy – an autopsy for animals. This was conducted arranged by Wildcare, a wonderful organization that rehabilitates injured wildlife. (I’ve written about them before, HERE.)
The result came in today. The owl died from eating poisoned rodents.
According the Wildcare press release,
“Commonly available rodenticides [rat poisons] are consumed by rodents, the basic food source for a number of different predators all the way up the food chain. These poisons kill by making whatever animal eats them bleed to death internally – slowly and painfully. While the poisoned animals – targeted or not – are still alive, they can be consumed by other predators. It is a terrifying prospect; to kill many animals while targeting only one.”
A Great Horned Owl eats about 5 rodents a day, and much more if it’s feeding young. Its favorite prey is skunk, but it also eats rats and mice, rabbits, and birds. If someone poisons rats to get rid of them, they don’t die right away. Instead they wander around, increasingly weak and slow – and thus particularly attractive to predators. The poison can then kill the bird or animal that eats it – or even the next animal up the food chain. [Edited to add: More HERE about the specific poisons that killed this owl.]
PROTECTING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD OWLS
We have Great Horned Owls in our neighborhood. I’ve seen them in Sutro Forest, up on the hillside, and in trees along Crestmont and Christopher. I’ve seen one on a lamp-post on Clarendon Avenue. We also have barn owls, which are even more vulnerable because they’re not large enough to eat skunks but eat more rats and mice instead. Every time we use rat poison, we’re endangering these birds.
“This is a local issue,” a neighbor said, asking for a response. San Francisco is in the process of finding ways to make buildings safe for birds. In fact, the Supervisors are right now in the process of figuring out what rules are needed (they’ve decided in principle that it should be done).
If you think it’s a good idea, write to your Supervisor. (Right now, ours is Sean Elsbernd; his email address is Sean.Elsbernd@sfgov.org )
More details below (this post is replicated from SutroForest.com)
Bird-killers. More dangerous than wind-farms, more insidious than cats… it’s windows. (The glass ones, not the thing produced by Microsoft.) Birds can’t see normal glass, and crash into it. Either they die, or they become easy prey.
San Francisco, like Chicago and Toronto, is trying to introduce legislation to make glass buildings safer for birds. Here’s a quote from the Planning Department website:
The newly adopted Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings [Note: this is a PDF file] explains the documented risks that structures present to birds. Over thirty years of research has proven the risk to be “biologically significant” for certain bird species. Recent studies have determined that annual bird fatalities in North America from window collisions may be as high as 1 billion birds per year or 1-5% of all birds. While the facts are staggering, the solutions are within reach. The majority of these deaths are foreseeable and avoidable. The document summarizes proven successful remedies such as window treatments, lighting design, and lighting operation. The document proposes a three-pronged approach to the problem:
creation and expansion of voluntary programs to encourage more bird-safe practices including acknowledging those who pursue certification through a proposed new program for “bird-safe building” recognition. ( page 33 of Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings )
If you’re living in San Francisco, please write to your Supervisor to support this.
SAVING CRASHED BIRDS
And meanwhile: If you find a crashed bird and it’s not dead — try to rescue it by providing a safe quiet place and some food and water. There’s a heart-warming story here on Walter Kitundu’s marvelous bird blog, wherein he saves a young Western tanager. It has some charming photographs.