coyotes in golden gate park

photo by Scott Sommerdorf, The Chronicle, 8/20/11

It seems we may be seeing coyotes more frequently in Golden Gate Park, according to this recent column by C.W. Nevius, for SF Gate:

‘Four years ago, the city was in a tizzy over coyotes. It culminated with two of them getting shot and killed in Golden Gate Park.

Now the message is tamer. At a neighborhood meeting organized by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma in the Richmond District on Friday, animal experts kept it simple: They’re here. There are more of them than ever. Get used to it.

“The whole nation is having problems with coyotes,” said Kent Smirl, a Department of Fish and Game lieutenant who has coordinated a coyote-watch program in Southern California.

San Francisco is actually behind much of the rest of the country. Between April 2010 and July of this year, there were 122 coyote “incidents,” meaning some kind of physical interaction with humans, in Southern California and just 29 here in the north.

San Francisco may be late to develop a coyote population – Project Coyote Director Camilla Fox says they’ve arrived in the past 10 years – but, as usual, we’re way ahead in the range of reactions. It starts with whether you say KI-oat-ee or KI-oat and goes from there.

Pet fanciers are horrified that a predator is stalking the public parks. And, says Eric Covington, a district supervisor for USDA Wildlife Services, concerns about pets are not entirely misplaced .  .  .

Conrad Jones, an associate wildlife biologist with Fish and Game, says one study, based in Malibu, found that 13.6 percent of coyote scat contained cat remains. (Fox says other studies show a much lower percentage.)

So coyotes are definitely a threat to pets, particularly cats out wandering at night or off-leash dogs crashing through the underbrush in parks.

But as Smirl says, “We don’t have a four-legged problem; we have a two-legged problem.”

The coyotes first arrived in the Presidio, probably after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Since then they’ve spread through the city’s parks and beyond. They are regular sights on golf courses, and Johnson says he’s seen them at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The reason is simple. The city is a coyote buffet line.

As Jones says, “What’s food for a coyote? Everything.”

It’s not just that food is readily available from unsecured garbage cans. There’s also pet food left out in backyards and bird feeders. Worse yet are well-intentioned folks who think they are helping the situation by feeding the coyotes.

They are not only missing the point – coyotes self-restrict their population based on available food, so the feeders are actually increasing the number – but it is dangerous. Coyotes that become dependent on handouts lose their fear of humans  .  .  .

The flip side of that situation is that some are so enamored of urban coyotes that they refuse to hear anything bad about them. Those are the people who say that the coyotes who were killed in Golden Gate Park just administered a light nip to a dog. Covington says it was more than that. The vet bill ran to thousands of dollars.

The debate is sure to continue.’
via Coyotes in city to stay, so protect pets and food.

For some many beautiful photographs and stories about coyote encounters in San Francisco see Janet Kessler’s blog,  Coyote Yips:  http://coyoteyipps.com/

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About fromthethicket

I'm a landscape historian and professor emeritus of landscape architecture, UC Davis. I live in San Francisco.
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4 Responses to coyotes in golden gate park

  1. Mark Wilden says:

    Yeah, but 32.6% of cat scat contains songbird remains, so…

  2. RKB says:

    The reason I ask is because here’s what the Palo Alto Humane Society says:

    “Stomach content analysis demonstrates that birds occupy an extremely small
    of the diet of either the feral or pet outdoor cat (aside from supplemental feeding
    humans, rats and mice make up the largest percentage of the cat diet). A New Zealand
    study from scat analysis showed that birds made up less than 5% of the cat diet,
    Australia that number was slightly higher at 5.2%. Concluded the authors of the latter
    study: “The common belief that feral cats are serious predators of birds is apparently
    without basis.” Studies on four continents (13 studies in Europe, 12 in North America,
    in Australia, and 1 in Africa) and 22 islands arrive at this same conclusion.”

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