Bernal Coyote Scared But Safe After Close Call With Dog

Bernal Coyote, hiding in a thicket after the chase. Photo by Janet Kessler

The coyote that lives on Bernal Hill had a close call last week, after a domesticated dog decided to chase her. The ensuing scene was so loud and chaotic that several readers wrote to tell Bernalwood about it, so we in turn reached out to San Francisco coyote-whisperer Janet Kessler to see if he had any information about the incident.

Providentially, Janet was on the scene when the dog chased the Bernal Coyote, and Janet shared this report:

The coyote had just spent a few moments on a peaceful grassy perch where she was observing the urban world as she knew it: the large city below and the dog walkers on and off the trails of a grassy park higher up. She got up to wander around the hillside when suddenly a dog caught sight of her and was after her in a flash — it was a large, golden retriever-like dog.

The coyote ran lickety-split away from the dog, into the street with the dog right at her heels. In the street, of course, both coyote and dog are endangered by traffic, but fortunately cars were sparse at that moment. Having flown across the street, the coyote dashed into the thicket on the other side of the street. Thickets serve as harborage for our wild coyotes, especially from dogs and people. It’s where they can rest and relax without being seen, and when the thickets are impenetrable, coyotes feel safe. Dogs usually can’t, or have difficulty, venturing into these thickets, so the dog remained on the street where the owner was able to grab it.

In the thicket, with her eyes glued in the direction of the dog, the little coyote vented her distress. She remained there and screeched her heart out for 20 minutes, looking over her shoulder now and then as dogs, people and loud traffic moved by on the next street. This is what she sounded like:

When she was done, she got up and walked away. I followed the coyote to make sure she wasn’t injured. I knew the dog hadn’t reached her, so she would have no injuries from his/her mouth. It wasn’t an “attack” but simply a harrowing “pursuit”. Still, I’ve seen coyotes injured in the past as they fled pursuing dogs. One such coyote limped for days, having twisted or injured an ankle or wrist in its hurry to get away. Luckily, the Bernal coyote displayed no signs of any injuries.

I also spoke to a dog-walker, Patrice, who said she had witnessed two motor scooters pursuing this same little coyote up and down the streets several weeks ago. It must have been another harrowing experience for the coyote. Did these humans not know how cruel they were being? What might be considered fun and games for us and our dogs is actually a matter of life and death for this little coyote. Please help stop this kind of activity whenever you notice it!

PHOTO AND VIDEO: Courtesy of Janet Kessler from Coyote Yipps

24 thoughts on “Bernal Coyote Scared But Safe After Close Call With Dog

  1. Serious question. Help me understand why the coyotes are not captured by animal control and relocated to a large open space? Will they die in a new location? Has that been tried before and a new pack just takes its place?
    Trying to understand how having wild animals in an urban setting is beneficial. Do the coyotes help keep our rodent population in check?


    • Yes you are correct, it doesn’t work: the coyote wants to head home and it does (or dies trying), or it’s transplanted in another’s territory, or every other county “has enough coyotes”, and another coyote will soon take its place, finally, it’s illegal in the state of CA to do so. Coyotes benefit humans as they keep rodents/raccoon populations down.

    • Coyotes migrated here, and would most likely do so again. I think it would be far more traumatic to relocate her: she chose this place and knows it well. She’s an innovative survivor. Let’s leave her alone. We love her!

  2. When is enough enough? To “document” wailing cries from this poor creature, while we decide that we know what is BEST for it ? Enough romanticizing of this little creature. Who knows how many other undocumented harassments there have been?
    Now there are people on scooters chasing the poor thing around for sport?
    I continue to believe this creature ought to be re-located to a safer habitat.

    • Eugenie, I love your empathy for this creature, and I feel it, too. The city is a hard place for some animals. Bernal is marginal habitat for this coyote, which is why we haven’t sustained one on the hill, yet. Lotsa traffic, little cover and soooo many people and dogs. This coyote found her way to the hill and is trying to make a go of it. This is her shot.

      Trapping and relocating wildlife is illegal in California. Wildcare has a good explanation of the laws around trapping and relocating.

    • I want to corrrect what I wrote above. I spoke with a knowledgable person and understand the situation better. I do continue to hate to read that there are harassing moments that the coyote endures. And, well-meaning gestures, like feeding her, are not in her best interests.

  3. Who are the scooter drivers? That’s cruel behavior as well! Will they become or are they already future serial killers in the making?

    So bummed out. I do wish the dog owners would take better care as well… It’s for their dogs benefit too.

  4. She probably eats neighborhood cats and coyotes will get aggressive with people if hungry and desperate enough (while uncommon still occurs look it up). Its is not out of lack of respect for the coyote I say this, they are a wild creatures and I respect their place in the ecosystem. It is a wild animal not a vegetarian puppy for the amusement and viewing enjoyment of rich people in SF and it will not be as cute once neighborhood critters go missing. Probably is best relocated or run off by a dog..

  5. I walk up there every day. I see this “coyote whisperer” often standing in the middle of the street blocking the coyote from crossing the road to get where it wants, probably trying to take her gazillionth picture (how many does one need, really?). Her presence, in my opinion, is far from providential being that she is stalking this coyote every day from sun up to midday, even tracking it to its’ den. Is this not harassment?

    • She’s done that in Glen Canyon and on Twin Peaks for years and you’re not wrong.

    • I’ve noticed this as well. Yes The Bernal Hill Coyote is a celebrity, but we should treat it like one when it is out enjoying our glorious hill with us: play it cool, people! Act like you see them all the time, and go the other way. It’s totally cool, normal even, to think in your head “OMG! I can’t believe I totally just saw The Bernal Hill Coyote!” Just play it cool. Blocking it’s path and tracking it to it’s den is not a very Fonzie thing to do.

      The incident on the linked blog seems a bit dramatized. And there are inconsistencies in the story, with the largest being the dog involved. The linked blog described the offending canine as a “large, golden retriever-like dog” when the pics clearly show some sort of midsize short haired spotted breed.

      As a side, when did our celebrity friend get a partner in crime?

  6. At what point do we ban dogs and allow the indigenous creatures to reclaim THEIR hill? Serious question. We humans and our “pets” have turned the hill in to a giant toilet. Don’t believe me, give it a smell. It would be amazing to see what would happen if dogs were banned and nature could run its course. Sadly will never happen. People usually only value preserving nature when it does not affect us personally.

  7. Can we stop attributing emotions to this animal? I think it’s great that she lives here and hope people will do the responsible thing and leash their dogs when she out and about but I do not think she was crying or displaying human emotions. I was up at Tahoe last week and heard the exact same vocalizations from the local coyotes at night. I’m sure she was somewhat traumatized but not more than a cat or gopher that’s been hunted by our favorite coyote.

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