Coyotes in the City

Date: 
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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Coyote pups in Golden Gate Park

Coyotes Have Long Lived in the Bay Area
Known as the North American Song Dog, coyotes historically lived in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, until the mid 1900s. But when an influx of poison bait was used to keep wildlife out of Bay Area farms, many animals, including coyotes, became scarce, and sometimes completely disappeared from areas like San Francisco.

Since then, stricter regulations have been placed on using poison bait for wildlife and coyotes have started to recolonize the area. “Research indicate coyotes have recolonized San Francisco from the North and South Bay,” said Camilla Fox of Project Coyote, a national nonprofit organization based in Marin County that promotes coexistence between people and wildlife. For coyotes traveling from the North Bay, that could mean crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Coyotes have been rumored to cross the bridge, and have been sighted on both sides of it.

Working toward a Peaceful Coexistence
Fox notes that coyotes are all over San Francisco, and that most of San Francisco’s green space probably has coyotes. San Francisco Animal Care and Control estimates that approximately twenty are living in the city. “What’s most remarkable is that we don’t often see them, though we are coexisting with them. We only hear when there is a sighting or conflict,” Fox says.

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Coyotes are critical components to our city’s local ecosystem. They have essentially replaced the role of other predators like wolves, and can have a positive impact on the ecosystem by benefitting ecological integrity and species diversity, says Fox. For example, coyotes help keep rodent populations in check by eating gophers, squirrels, and rats. “More rodent-eating predators on the landscape like coyotes and birds of prey means less rodenticides and other deadly poisons that kill non-target animals,” she says.

Most of the time coyotes want to have nothing to do with us. But like dogs, coyotes are naturally curious animals so they may check us out. To avoid conflicts, it’s important to keep cats indoors and dogs on leashes where there are leash laws.

While it’s not abnormal to see a coyote in the daytime, studies have shown that coyotes have become more nocturnal in urban areas largely to avoid humans and traffic on roadways. “Cars kill lots of coyotes and other wildlife in urban areas,” Fox says. In response, Project Coyote is working with cities to install wildlife crossing signs and to help them consider ways to mitigate road mortality in wildlife corridor areas.

Fox says that the biggest challenge to a peaceful coexistence between coyotes and people is the need for increased education about coyotes. So what can you do? Follow these tips:

At home

  • While coyotes are largely carnivorous, they can eat just about anything, from fruit to insects to vegetation. To prevent coyotes from coming into your yard, try to minimize or reduce attractants by cleaning up fallen fruit in your yard.
  • Clean up birdseed, and feed cats and dogs inside. Birdseed and pet food can attract rodents, which coyotes prey on.
  • Keep outdoor grills clean.
  • Especially during the drought, water can be a big attractor for wildlife, including coyotes. For this reason, minimize outdoor access to water, such as water bowls for pets.

In parks and open spaces

  • Be aware that coyotes live in our open spaces and parks. Be especially vigilant during pupping season (between April and August) when coyote families may try to protect their young from off-leash dogs.
  • Do not feed coyotes.
  • If you see a coyote, appreciate it from a distance.
  • If you are approached by a coyote, act big and make loud noises.
  • If a coyote is acting aggressively or exhibiting strange behavior, call Animal Care and Control at (415) 554-9400.

More information

Photo credits: Camilla H. Fox/ProjectCoyote.org (top) and David Assmann (middle)