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

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!

Finally! Clear, Up-Close Portraits of a Bernal Coyote

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We’ve known for some time that coyotes have settled in Bernal Heights and become our new neighbors. Yet while coyote sightings are now a frequent occurrence, so far many of the photos of the coyotes that we’ve seen have suffered from the Bigfoot Problem — the images have been distant and somewhat grainy.

Over the weekend Bernal neighbor and ace photographer Cristiano Valli tackled that by capturing some of the most stunning and intimate portraits of our coyote-neighbors that we’ve seen thus far. He says:

“[This coyote] lives in the backyard of the cool house on Stoneman at Shotwell. He’s terrified most of the time. Aggressive if cornered. Cute like hell.”

Here are a few more of Neighbor Cristiano’s portraits of our coyote neighbors.

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PHOTOS: Cristiano Valli on Instagram

Aggressive Coyote on Bernal Hill Charges Neighbor Walking Dog

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Bernalwood has received several reports of coyote sightings in northeast Bernal Heights during the last few days, and most of them have been charming. But today, Neighbor Jeff writes about a more aggressive encounter along Bernal Heights Boulevard that took place early this morning:

Wanted to report that the coyote living on Bernal Hill attempted an attack this morning at 5:30.

I was walking my dog along Bernal Heights Boulevard when I spotted the coyote standing on the hilltop watching us. As we continued toward Folsom St., the coyote followed us along the ridge, then sprinted down the hill and charged us.

I stopped and turned to face it as it held its ground about 15 feet away.

I then started to yell at it very loudly to try and scare it off. My third yell had some success as it scampered across the road and jumped the road barrier. But then it jumped over the barrier and charged us again. This time coming up about 10 feet away from us and getting ready to pounce.

At that point, a car came down the road and conveniently scared it away.

We were very lucky.

My dog is a 130 lb Mastiff, so this would not have been easy pickings for the coyote. It was incredibly bold and aggressive.

IMAGE: Coyote on grassy slope on Alabama just below Bernal Heights Boulevard, March 8, 2016. Photo by Judy Ko.

Coyote Becomes Next Door Neighbor in Northeast Bernal Heights

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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!

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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