Big *heart* to Chris Blagg for sharing this photo via Instagram.
This week Neighbor Rachel noticed that someone has been leaving dog food out for our coyote neighbor who lives around Bernal Hill.
We saw the coyote eating the dog food. It was on the southern side of the hill. I was in my car watching, and a runner came by and we both watched him eat. Argh!
Argh, indeed. That’s not good.
Please take a moment to re-read the comprehensive Guide to Sharing Bernal Hill With Our Coyote, where you find this admonition:
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” — 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.
To feed the coyote is to create additional risk for the coyote and increase the chances that our co-habitation of shared urban spaces will end badly. Please, please, do not feed the Bernal coyote.
PHOTOS: Photos, and photo annotations, courtesy of Neighbor Rachel
Oh hey. Did your dog lose a ball on the southestern side of Bernal Hill? Because the Bernal Coyote found one — and had a lot of fun with it.
During one of his recent early-morning dog walks, Neighbor Rally filmed the Bernal Coyote mid-frolic, as the critter played with a ball. Just watch:
So cute! Just as a reminder: Please read these expert tips on how to co-exist sustainably with our Neighbor Coyote, to ensure we can enjoy his/her company for many moons to come.
VIDEO: Courtesy of Neighbor Rally
Bernalwood has previously shared stories about Bernal neighbors who have struggled to pay big bills levied by the City to cover the cost of street tree maintenance. Now, after some unpleasant wrangling on the Board of Supervisors, a proposition sponsored by D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener to get the City to once again assume responsibility for street tree maintenance is on track to appear on the November ballot.
Joshua Sabatini from The Examiner reports:
The agreement was announced Tuesday amid a turnout of about 300 people organized by the Friends of the Urban Forest, a nonprofit group that supports growing San Francisco’s tree canopy. San Francisco has approximately 105,000 street trees on sidewalks and medians.
For years, The City has controversially shifted the care of trees to property owners, after failing to fund tree care in its annual budget. But voters this November will have a chance to approve a charter amendment to require The City to take back oversight of all street trees, the liability that comes with them and any sidewalk damage the trees might cause.
The measure was introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener, but a compromise was reached to shore up support from other supervisors, including Supervisor John Avalos, who had previously introduced a competing proposal.
“This is a grassroots movement that has been brewing for a long time of people in this city that understand that trees matter,” Wiener said. He called The City’s decision of “dumping responsibility” of street trees on property owners a “terrible and unfair system.”
The Examiner adds that a final vote to put the tree measure on the November ballot should happen in the Board of Supervisors today.
PHOTO: Expensive tree on public land, assigned to Neighbor Laura in 2015, by Neighbor Laura
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
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
Thank you Janet!
PHOTO: Coyote on Bernal Hill, courtesy of Cristiano Valli on Instagram
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: