Raccoon Family Conducts Home Invasion Training Exercise at Bernal Home

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The noise outside the open window sounded like a strange communication of peeps and growls, as if a small group of feral R2-D2s were huddling to plot their next move. And indeed, they were.

When your Bernalwood editor turned on the back yard floodlights to look outside a few days ago, we interrupted a mama raccoon just as she was instructing her four cubs on the proper technique used to invade my home and plunder our pantry.

Although our stylish coyote gets all the headlines, Bernal Heights is also a thriving habitat for raccoons, and raccoons are shitty neighbors. They’re smart, they’re fearless, they work in teams, and they have digits that approximate opposable thumbs. They’re also rather cute, which is why some wags prefer to call them “trash pandas.”

Anyway, when Bernalwood turned the lights on, Mama Raccoon gave a pissed-off look that said “Ugh. Can’t you see we we’re working here???”

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Lost Parakeet Alert!!

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Neighbor Paige is asking her North Bernal neighbors to be on the lookout for her lost parakeet:

Hi Bernalwood.  I’m your neighbor on  Precita, and my parakeet, Gertie, escaped. I’d appreciate it if you could post my lost bird flier.

Awww. If you see Gertie, please call Neighbor Paige at the number shown on your screen:

LOSTPARAKEET

Sharing Bernal Hill With Our Coyote: A User’s Guide

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Now that a coyote has settled in to life in Bernal Heights, there have been a lot of questions asked about how to co-exist with our new neighbor. Luckily for us, Janet Kessler, the urban coyote whisperer from the Coyote Yipps website, has been monitoring the coyote situation on Bernal Hill, and she graciously shared this helpful guide on how to understand, interpret, and manage the behavior of Bernal’s own Neighbor Coyote.

Over to you, Janet:

Understanding and Respecting the Bernal Hill Coyote
by Janet Kessler

We have our very own coyote again on Bernal Hill and most folks are thrilled about it. Here’s some basic information I’ve put together about coyotes, based primarily on concern and comments which have appeared on Bernalwood recently.

COYOTES ARE TERRITORIAL AND LIVE IN FAMILIES
Most parks in San Francisco have one stable family of coyotes, or a loner. Coyotes are not “pack” animals of unrelated individuals. Families “claim” territories which they “own,” and from which they exclude other coyotes. They trek through neighborhoods every night — and sometimes during the early morning or early evening hours — marking their territories to keep other coyotes out and looking for hunting opportunities. Studies show that in urban areas, there is generally about one coyote per square mile — a family of 4 would require about 4 square miles. If you keep seeing coyotes in one particular area, its very likely the same individual coyotes.

Although we have only one coyote on Bernal Hill right now, other parks have mated pairs with families. Coyotes mate for life, and both parents raise the young. Coyotes mate in January or February and produce young in April. Births occur only once a year.

When it’s time for youngsters to “disperse”, the parents will drive them out, or they may just pick-up-and-go. This usually occurs between one and two years of age, and it occurs throughout the year — there is no “dispersal season.”

Cars are urban coyotes’ chief cause of death! A previous Bernal Hill coyote was killed by a car a number of years ago. A few weeks ago in Diamond Heights, a car swerved into someone’s house to avoid hitting a coyote.

ASSERTIVE OR INSISTENT BEHAVIOR
As individual coyotes in a family mature, some may go through phases of what might be called more “assertive” or “insistent” behavior, such as: following or running in the direction of a dog. During pupping season, assertiveness is strongest, with coyotes even approaching and nipping at dogs’ haunches.

These are coyote “messaging” behaviors; coyotes want the dogs to move on and to know the territory is taken. These behaviors don’t “define” a coyote, and they don’t last. I’ve seen no evidence to indicate that such behaviors build towards greater overall aggressiveness. Many of the more apparently “assertive” behaviors, both in juveniles and adults, are based solely on circumstances and happenstance encounters. The best strategy is to keep your distance.

FEEDING
Please don’t feed the Bernal coyote. Feeding breaks down the barrier that keeps coyotes wild. If they become food-conditioned — which is different from “habituation” (which we’ll talk about later) — big problems can develop, including approaching people, which increases the chances for negative incidents to occur. Feeding coyotes also encourages them to hang around yards, where people don’t want them.

Coyotes are opportunistic eaters, which means they can eat almost anything. Their preference is gophers, squirrels and voles, which they eat whole: they need the meat, muscle, bones, fur — all of it — to nourish themselves properly. They also eat fruit, nuts, bugs, weak or juvenile raccoons, skunks, opossums, and sometimes snakes. And yes, they will eat the occasional cat or small dog if circumstances are right — coyotes don’t know what’s a pet and what isn’t. Protect your pets by not allowing them to roam free and by supervising them closely when out of doors.

HABITUATION
Coyotes don’t “fear” humans — that is an incorrect term. Rather, they are “wary” of humans. This means although a coyote won’t flee lickety-split in fear when they see a human, they nonetheless prefer to keep their distance and not approach us. Humans, in turn, need to respect them and their wildness by keeping as far away from them as possible.

“Habituation” is a normal progression in urban areas. We can’t prevent it, because we can’t stop coyotes from seeing humans on a daily basis, so they get used to seeing us. A habituated coyote is not a dangerous coyote. That said, coyotes also habituate to “scare” tactics, which is why trying to shoo off a coyote should be used sparingly, and only when a coyote has come too close.

COYOTES AND PETS
Coyotes don’t approach humans, but dogs are a different story. Coyotes and dogs are naturally antagonistic towards each other. Coyotes are both curious and suspicious of dogs because of territorial issues. (Remember that coyotes even keep other coyotes out of their territories.) Always supervise your pets to prevent incidents: Many dogs have a tendency to chase after coyotes. Please don’t allow your dog to do this.

Coyotes may approach dogs. If they get too close, they could either grab a small dog or “message” a larger dog if the coyote considers it a threat to its territory or personal space. They can only do this when they get close enough. Don’t let them. You can prevent an incident by keeping your dog away from coyotes in the first place, by leashing when you see one, and by walking away from it. It’s no different than when you encounter a skunk with its tail up: Keep your dog off of it, and move away.

Coyotes may follow dogs to find out what the dog is doing and where it is going (they do the same to non-family coyotes). If you keep moving away from the coyote, it soon will no longer follow.

If you don’t want the coyote to follow at all, toss a small stone in its direction (not at it), and/or approach it using angry body language and angry yelling. Noise alone, or waving flailing arms, is not always effective — something has to move towards the coyote. Walking towards the coyote while slapping a newspaper viciously on your thigh works, but tossing stones toward it is probably more effective.

MANAGING COYOTES
The number one method of managing coyotes for coexistence is through human education and human behavior modification. These have been shown to be extremely effective. The City of San Francisco has been lax in putting out signs or getting educational material to folks. Some of us have been filling the void, getting material, information and guidelines out to people, but as individuals or as small organizations, we have not been able to reach everyone. Please visit coyotecoexistence.com for specific information, and coyoteyipps.com.

The number of real coyote incidents in the City is limited. There have been less than a handful of dog fatalities by coyotes — all were unleashed small dogs in known coyote areas — all were preventable. There have been many incidents of people being frightened and reporting “attacks” on their dogs. Few if any of these attacks were reported on a questionnaire which would tease out what actually occurred. Instead, these incidents have been spelled out on the social media with warnings of doom that is awaiting us all.

Most of the sightings of our coyote on Bernal Hill have been reported as charming. But there was a report of an attempted “attack” on a dog at 5:30 in the morning. The incident was written up here on Bernalwood. However, a lone coyote, who weighs 35 pounds, is not going to “attack” a 130 pound Mastif. Coyotes may watch dogs, follow, or hurry in your direction for many reasons, including curiosity, or investigation. They may jump up and down because of anxiety. These are not “attacks”, nor are they “attempted attacks”.

Hopefully, by learning more about coyotes, we can diminish the very real feeling of fear which comes from not knowing what is going on. If you want help with specific issues, please contact me or anyone at coyotecoexistence@gmail.com

Thank you Janet!

PHOTO: Coyote on Bernal Hill, courtesy of Cristiano Valli on Instagram

Coyote Becomes a Familiar Neighbor on Bernal Hill

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Sightings of the coyote who lives on Bernal Hill have become a routine occurrence, and with increasing frequency comes a growing sense of familiarity. No longer an exotic new arrival, many Bernal residents now regard the coyote as just another neighbor.

Neighbor Doug  describes an experience with the coyote last week:

We came upon the coyote at the upper gate of Bernal Hill at 5:55 AM, and he followed us down past the lower gate almost to the big intersection on the east end of the hill (almost 15 minutes later). He tried playing with my dogs almost the whole way, frequently bounding up within 10 ft. of us. He REALLY wanted to play.

Neighbor Doug also shared this video of the encounter:

Wild Kingdom: Videos of Coyote vs. Snake Battle on Bernal Hill

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Late last night, your Bernalwood editor saw a coyote ambling down the middle of the road as I was driving along the south side of Bernal Hill.  He seemed very comfortable there.  But that’s nothing compared to what a few Bernal neighbors saw on Monday morning around the same location: An epic battle between a coyote and a snake.

Here’s an amazing video of the battle, shared by Neighbor Santiago:

Neighbor Bruce saw it too, from a slightly different angle. He says:

We came upon the Bernal Coyote (or he came upon us) just after 9am on Monday morning, on Bernal Heights Blvd., close to the stairs that descend to Gates St.

Here’s a video of the coyote hunting a mid-morning snake snack. It’s little bit of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom right here in Bernal!

Use Your Smartphone to Swim Underwater With Bernal Author James Nestor

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Through the miracle of modern media technology, you can go scuba diving with Ellert Street neighbor and celebrity journalist James Nestor as he dances with dolphins deep below the ocean surface. Right now.

Neighbor James is the author of Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, an acclaimed book about people who dive deep in the oceans without using external oxygen tanks. More recently, he wrote a beautiful article for the New York Times about what scientists are learning about how dolphins and whales communicate with one another. Now, as an added bonus, the Times has produced a stunning virtual-reality version of that story that lets you use you use your smartphone to experience what it’s like to explore a sunken ship and swim underwater with whales.

Neighbor James tells Bernalwood:

Since Deep came out, people keep asking me what it was like to have your body vibrated by the click vocalizations of sperm whales, the world’s largest predators. I’d usually offer up a few clumsy adjectives, then shake my head and say, “Oh, you just needed to be there.”

In November, the NYTimes approached me and director Sandy Smolan with the idea of developing a virtual-reality (VR) piece based on Deep, specifically focused around cetacean freediving research. “The Click Effect” is the result. We just premiered it at Tribeca Film Festival.

I’d never seen VR before working on this film. I suspect most VR will be used for video games and porn, but it’s also a cool way to bring people into a world they’ll never see to get face-to-face animals they may not have known existed.

VR really is the closest thing to freediving deep and communing with these majestic, watery beasts that I’ve seen. And the best part about it? You don’t even have to hold your breath.

Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, The Click effect really is an amazing thing to experience. It’s optimized for VR rigs like Google Cardboard, but it also works as a simple 360-degree video that you can watch and explore simply by moving your phone to look around. (Headphones strongly recommended!)  As an added bonus, Neighbor James makes a cameo in a wetsuit. Raaawr!

The Click Effect is available for iPhone or Android, and you can experience it by following the download links at the top or bottom of his article. Try it!

PHOTO: Screengrab of Neighbor James Nestor in The Click Effect. Raaawr!