The Bernal Hill Coyote Is a Female and Human “Kindness” Could Kill Her

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Janet Kessler, the San Francisco coyote whisperer who runs the  wonderful Coyote Yipps website, has been keeping an eye on the coyote that lives on Bernal Hill.

After some observation, Janet has noticed some disturbing signs that the coyote is in danger — and the problems stem from people who are putting her at risk with misguided “kindness.” Janet explains what this means in this special contribution to Bernalwood:

AN UPDATE ON THE BERNAL COYOTE

In case you haven’t heard, the Bernal Hill coyote is most definitely a “she!”

Almost all Bernal Hill visitors love her. How could anyone ask for a more congenial neighbor! She’s good natured, photogenic, good-willed and fun-loving. She knows how to entertain herself. I watched her play exuberantly with a stick several times within the span of an hour.

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Some people love the Bernal Coyote so much that they are literally throwing “kindness” at her. However, the “kindness” she’s being showered with is actually cruel. Unintentionally so, but nonetheless cruel: it’s hurting her tremendously.

Feedingthe Bernal Coyote is bad enough, but feeding her from cars is detrimental. As a result, she’s now out in the streets, approaching cars, stopping traffic, and even just hanging out there. Please remember: the last Bernal Hill coyote was killed by a car.

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A few days ago I witnessed her run repeatedly to a bluff overlooking the road whenever she heard a certain type of truck go by. A couple of people said that two months ago they witnessed someone in a white truck deposit food for her. I saw her run towards a coffee cup as it was tossed from a car window — she was expecting food.

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When cars stop on the road to observe her, she often hurries down the hill to the car. And I witnessed her chasing four separate cars, one after the other. Her motive would be the expectation of food. She would only expect food if she has been given it in the past. Witnesses have seen her being fed from car windows. By feeding her, people have “trained” or “food conditioned” her (rewarded her behavior with food) to come down into the streets. It will be much harder to break this behavior than it was to start it.

She has also been coming in towards walkers, again in the hopes for food. This scares some people. If she’s expecting food, she could start closing the gap and nudging people for what she wants. A spooked human may startle her and she may react with a self-protective nip. Although dogs are allowed their first bite free, this is not true of coyotes. If she bites a human, she’s dead. This is why, “a fed coyote is a dead coyote.”

Some folks are being overly “friendly” towards the coyote. Dogs with their owners sit and commune with her only 15 feet apart. This, also, is an unkind thing to do. It’s important not to be so friendly, not to engage physically or psychologically with her. Rather, be neutral if you can and always walk away from her. You are not respecting her wildness by engaging with her or by allowing your dog to interact/engage with her in any way.

On the bright side, this little female does not seem territorial: she does not defend her space against intruder dogs. The reason for this is that she’s a loner who does not claim a territory, she’s not a member of a family. Nonetheless, if and when she hooks up with a mate — coyotes mate for life — her mate will be territorial. Male coyotes can be very protective and jealous of dogs getting too close to their mates or pups. By respecting her wildness and giving her plenty of space, we can maintain a balance for coexistence which will work.

What to do now? First, DO NOT FEED THE COYOTE — EVER! Second, become an ambassador for the Bernal Coyote: If you see anyone giving her food, speak to them about what is needed for the well-being of the coyote. If the person resists, report them to the police; It’s actually against the law to feed wildlife.

The Bernal Coyote will the one who pays the price for humans’ misguided “deeds of kindness.” Please — please! — never feed her, be as neutral and uninterested towards her as possible, and always walk away from her, don’t engage her with your dog or talk to her. If she persists in coming closer to you, spook her away by picking up a small stone and heaving it towards her (not at her so as to actually hurt her, just towards her), and keep walking away. The Bernal Coyote’s behavior is not her fault; it’s our fault.

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PHOTOS: All photos by Janet Kessler of Coyote Yipps

Get to Know This Butterfly, Photographed Atop Bernal Hill

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Neighbor Chris did some butterfly spotting atop Bernal Hill recently, and he shared the results of his spottery with Bernalwood:

An Anise Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio zelicaon) pauses and warms its wings in the eighty-degree mid-afternoon heat, against the Sutrito Tower fence.

(NOTE: For best results, try reading the above while wearing a pith helmet and whispering excitedly into a microphone.)

Here’s a close-up of our local specimen:

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As for Papilla zelicaon, the Wikipedia sayeth:

Papilio zelicaon, the anise swallowtail, is a common swallowtail butterfly of western North America. Both the upper and lower sides of its wings are black, but the upper wing has a broad yellow stripe across it, which gives the butterfly an overall yellow appearance. There are striking blue spots on the rear edge of the rear wing, and the characteristic tails of the swallowtails. Its wingspan is 52–80 mm. Its body is somewhat shorter than the rather similar western tiger swallowtail, with which its range overlaps; it also lacks the black stripes, converging toward the tail, of the latter […]

The anise swallowtail is a butterfly of fairly open country, and is most likely to be seen on bare hills or mountains, in fields or at the roadside. It is often seen in towns, in gardens or vacant lots.

The usual range of the anise swallowtail extends from British Columbia and North Dakota at its northern extreme, south to the Baja California Peninsula and other parts of Mexico. It is occasionally reported from the southeastern United States, but its normal range does not extend east of New Mexico. In all the more northerly parts of the range, the chrysalis hibernates.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Chris Frieber

Reminder: Please Do NOT Feed the Bernal Hill Coyote

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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!

Photo evidence:

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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

Watch Our Coyote Neighbor Play with a Ball on Bernal Hill

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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:

The Bernal coyote playing with a ball on Bernal Hill @bernalwood #bernalheights

A post shared by Rally Pagulayan (@rallyp_157) on

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

Ballot Proposition Would Shift Street Tree Maintenance Back to City

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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

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