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


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


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!

Coyote Becomes Next Door Neighbor in Northeast Bernal Heights


Neighbor Adrian lives in northeast Bernal, near the eastern side of the Miller-Dogpatch Community Garden. Last week, he was surprised to discover that a coyote had moved in next door.

It’s unclear if this is the same coyote that was spotted in the northeast corner of Bernal Hill last month, but Neighbor Adrian reports:

I saw a couple of articles regarding the coyote sightings on Bernal Hill.  I was hoping to see the wild animal around the hill, since we are up there all the time with our dogs. However, to our surprise, we didn’t have to go to far; It seems a coyote has moved in to an empty lot in front of our home!

Our next door neighbor sent me a text on Thursday to let me know there was a sighting of a coyote near us and to be careful with our dogs. (We have two small dogs) Next thing, on Saturday while on the street with our dogs, we saw the coyote for the first time. He just looked at us and retreated behind the trees and bushes.

On Monday I went check again, and there he was looking back at us, not moving or making any noise — just looking…  which was kind of creepy!


I’m sharing a couple of pictures of the new neighbor. Although they are not very clear (seeing the coyote is more like finding Waldo), it shows how close he is to home .

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbor Adrian

Bernal Neighbor Brilliantly Trolls Tech Industry, Tech-Haters, Media, Chickens, and Us


For the last few days, Neighbor Andi Plantenberg on fashionable Samoset Street has generated a lot of buzz and a few headlines by creating a pitch-perfect website for Qoopy, a luxury day care service for chickens.

Operating in Brooklyn, Portland, and (of course) Bernal Heights, Qoopy promises that “when you travel, we give your chickens the royal treatment.” But only if you can get to the top of the waitlist.

Naturally, this has been was greeted with howls of shock and zeitgeist-encapsulating derision. For example:

Some saw it as a clear sign of late-stage urban bourgeois affluenza:

Bernalwood heard about Qoopy earlier in the week, and with Bernal featured so prominently, we decided to reach out for more information.  Neighbor Andi sent this reply:

One of the most common questions we get is “Is Qoopy real — or is this some kind of affectionate satire of the world we live in?”

I’m not a shaman. I’m not qualified to answer questions like that.

I do see that today’s urbanites long for a return to the simplicity and immediacy of raising their own food. This new generation has its own answers to questions like “What should I do with my chicken once her egg-laying days are done?” And even, “When I go to work, will my chicken miss me?”

On the other hand, the tech industry is racing to provide services that cater to urbanites’ every whim. I can have my dirty skivvies picked up with a tap of my smartphone.

Qoopy’s biggest innovation has not been our hand-crafted chicken curriculum, but our willingness to ask the question “Is the innovation economy solving the right problems?”

Truth be told, even after receiving this response, Bernalwood remained unsure if Qoopy was real, or satire, or both.

After all, experience has taught us that proper chicken care is a legitimate need in Bernal Heights, and besides; the idea of creating a satirical thing that nevertheless operates as a real thing is … errrrrrrrrr … uummmmm … well, suffice to say, we don’t find this hard to imagine either, because Bernalwood has been doing exactly that for almost five years.

We were candid about our ongoing confusion in the conversation with Neighbor Andi, and she was gracious enough to provide a less ambiguous reply:

Last Thursday evening, my husband Alan Peters and I were joking around like we normally do, and the notion of a Chicken Daycare for Urban Hipsters came up. We laughed and I said “I’m just going to launch it tomorrow’. I made a landing page, came up with a company name and a domain. And posted to facebook. The goal was to entertain myself.

That was Friday. Qoopy had a handful of up-votes on Product Hunt by Monday afternoon. By Tuesday mid-day I had thousands of hits, a few serious inquiries (all from Brooklyn) and a playful VC inquiry.

I think the reason it went viral was that it seemed like a joke, but could conceivably be true (Wait– maybe this *is* real”). The innovation economy is making services like this left and right, hence my earlier blurb.

So it began as a fun couple hours on friday, but has tapped on something larger. Qoopy has started some healthy and entertaining dialog.

Yeah yeah, sure sure. Seriously though… how do we get to the top of the waiting list?

IMAGE: Qoopy.co

Fire Department Rescues Scared Kitty from Redwood Tree on Andover



The more things change, the more others things remain the same. Neighbor Eugenie snapped into Bernalwood Action News mode yesterday to report live from the scene as the San Francisco Fire Department plucked a frightened kitty named Bee from the upper branches of a Bernal Heights tree:

A small kitten chasing squirrels got stuck 25 feet up a redwood tree on south Andover Street this afternoon.  To the delight of a half dozen kids, five of our finest from the Church Street station coaxed little Bee down.

Hooray, SFFD! Neighbor Eugenie stayed on the scene to capture the moment when the embarrassed cat finally came back to earth. Citizens of Bernalwood, meet Bee:


PHOTOS: Neighbor Eugenie Marek

During Pup Season, Coyote Whisperer Warns of Canine Encounters


If you’re a pet-owner, you may have already heard about the small dog that was attacked by a coyote near Stern Grove last week. Turns out, it’s pup-season for coyotes. This is the time of year when — just like us! — stressed-out mama coyotes are introducing their progeny to life in San Francisco.

Coyotes roam in many San Francisco’s parks and open spaces, although the coyotes in Bernal Heights are exceptionally creative and stylish. Of course, we Bernalese are world-famous for our fondness for dogs, and lots of those pets also roam free here. So during pup season, Janet Kessler, creator of Coyote Yipps, a blog about San Francisco coyotes, shares this wisdom about coyote-canine interactions:

It is coyote pupping season again! During pupping season there is more potential for dog/coyote encounters and possible confrontations. By following simple guidelines we can prevent most encounters and we can be prepared for any inadvertent encounter that does pop up.

San Francisco has several dozen coyotes living in the city, mostly in nuclear families. They’re in all of our major parks. Because most folks in San Francisco have dogs or cats, and because there are pups in some of the parks — pups would be about 4 months old now — it is a good time to brush up on coyote behavior and the guidelines necessary for peacefully coexisting. The information applies in any park where there are coyotes, whether or not there are pups.

Coyotes are out most often when it’s dark and when we humans aren’t around. However, most folks now realize that it’s not uncommon to see coyotes out during the day — they are not nocturnal animals.

Coyotes live in family units, not packs of unrelated individuals. We have a number of coyote families living in the city of San Francisco. Coyotes mate for life, and both parents raise the young and watch out for their safety — we’re talking about real family life here. It’s hard not to admire a species that puts so much effort into maintaining their own monogamous relationship and into the care and safety of their youngsters. Parents play with, bring food to, groom, defend, lead family outings, teach, tease and discipline their youngsters, not so differently from the way humans do: coyote life is about family life. Each family claims a territory from which other coyotes are kept out. This insures that there will be enough resources for the family unit.

How to get along with coyotes? Treat them as you would any other wild animal, such as a skunk or raccoon, by moving away from them and keeping your dogs away from them, which can only be done by leashing up! Leashing will keep your dog from chasing a coyote, and it will keep your dog close to you, thus discouraging a coyote from coming in closer to your dog. Coyotes will do their utmost to avoid humans and human encounters, so the issue isn’t about you. However, although they’ll shy away from people, they may give territorial messages to dogs who come too close, the same as they do to any other non-family coyote who might potentially threaten their territorial claims: this could result in a nip to your dog’s haunches — cattle-dog fashion — to get the dog to leave the area. And small pets may look like any other prey to them: so please leash your pets in known coyote areas and don’t allow them to roam free. Coyotes have been spotted wandering through virtually every park in San Francisco.

Everyone with a dog should know how to shoo off a coyote who has come too close — it’s know-how that’s needed just in case there’s an unexpected encounter. Simply harassing a coyote with screams, flailing arms and making yourself look big is often not effective. Coyotes get used to this and eventually ignore it as meaningless and quirky human behavior. It’s best actually to, 1) approach or charge towards the coyote, and to, 2) do so menacingly as though you’re out to get them, by eyeballing them with eye-to-eye contact and yelling “SCRAM, get out of here!” Often, your piercing gaze into their eyes alone is enough to get them to move on.

However — and this is an all-important caveat — if they absolutely do not move, it will be because pups are close by. In this case, it’s best to keep the peace by respecting their need to keep you out of the area they won’t move from: just back away rather than provoke an incident, without running. If one follows you, turn and face the coyote — he’s unlikely to come closer with your eyes glaring at him. However, if he just stands there, again, try charging in his direction as described above to get him off of your tail. As always, prevention is the best medicine — always keep your distance in the first place.

“Coyotes As Neighbors” is a YouTube video presentation which explains relevant coyote behavior — including their intense family lives and territoriality towards other canines, be they dogs or other coyotes — plus guidelines for keeping us all, humans, pets AND coyotes, safe and worry-free. The video includes two demos on how to effectively shoo off a coyote who has come too close. [There’s also a Spanish version and a Mandarin version.]

Here’s what to look for: Janet also shares this video of a female coyote in San Francisco acting distressed because of the presence of dogs:

PHOTO: Top, Janet Kessler

Dissident Parrots Find Sanctuary in Bernal Community Garden


Neighbor Craig reports that a flock of wild parrots has been spotted in eastern Bernal’s Dogpatch-Miller Community Garden.

That makes sense, because it’s an election year, and Aaron Peskin is on the ballot.


As you must certainly recall, in 2012 ornithologists from the Bernalwood Political Research Unit determined that the wild parrots in Bernal Heights “are refugees from Telegraph Hill who fled to Bernal Heights to escape the stultifying NIMBYism and shrill politics of that part of the City in general — and Aaron Peskin in particular.”

At the moment, Aaron Peskin is campaigning to once again represent District 3 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. So the move by these free-spirited parrots to seek sanctuary several miles from Telegraph Hill should come as no surprise.

Please welcome the dissident parrots with the warmth and neighborly generosity for which Bernal Heights is world-famous.

PHOTOS: Craig Saitowitz