The Presidio of San Francisco is home to not only people, but also wildlife, including coyotes who have been known to come into contact with humans and their pets.
Residents, visitors, and local dog-walkers have sent in reports about their encounters with coyotes, from sightings to attacks from the animals. During pupping season, attacks are usually on the rise as coyotes will protect their territory by acting aggressively towards any other animal or human that they see as a threat. The Presidio Trust has closed off some trails from people walking their dogs and they inform everyone to not feed the animals. There are currently six coyotes living in the Presidio Area; four of them were born this year, and two were breeding, according to Jonathan Young, an ecologist for the Presidio Trust.
“Typically attacks on humans or their pets happens during pupping season. A dog can come too close to a den, and the coyotes will act aggressively to tell that animal to get away,” says Young. It’s normal behavior for a coyote to patrol its den site, and when it senses a threat, it will try to escort any threats out of the area. Encounters near dens usually spike around pupping season, which runs between the spring and fall seasons. Feeding the animals is one of the actions that will cause a coyote to act in a non-normal way. Coyotes that aggress on people are usually fed by humans, and that causes them to think of humans as a food source according to Young. Young’s goal is to reduce conflict between humans and coyotes. “A fed coyote is a dead coyote,” says Young, as the only option for a coyote who has become food conditioned is to put it down. It is illegal in the state of California to relocate coyotes, so moving them around is not an option.
Conserving natural resources while also keeping the public safe is one of the main goals for Young and the Trust.
David Gruber is a San Francisco resident who had an encounter with a couple coyotes in April of this year. Gruber was walking his dog near a golf course when two coyotes confronted them at around 6 p.m. that evening. “They were probably 10 or 15 feet away from me, then they got to each side of me and started to probe me after they bit my dog,” says Gruber. The coyotes soon ran off, and Gruber says that he finished up his walk with his dog before contacting park police. Gruber says that he and his dog were okay after the attack, and that park police documented the encounter.
Desiree Munoz, a park ranger for Golden Gate National Recreation Area, says that she loves the coyotes and loves their presence in the park. Her advice for people in the area is to always keep their dogs on a leash. “Personally I want to see the animals here, but as an employee in a ranger outfit, I have to make sure that people feel welcome to the park. We need a balance between humans and wildlife,” says Munoz.
Another park ranger named Marcus Combs says that coyotes weren’t always the problem around the area. “Quails used to be a problem for the trust until they banded them to help keep better track of them,” says combs. He mentions that there are a couple tagged coyotes with gps collars on since around June of this year.
“The coyotes are here to stay. They’re not being captured. They’re not being shot. They’re not being relocated,” says Linda Guittard, an employee of the Presidio Trust.
Guittard explains that people just need to be more responsible, “Keep your dog on a leash, don’t feed the wildlife, and please follow warning signs.”
“You’re looking at Pacific Heights. You’re looking at most wealthy community in San Francisco bordering on the Presidio. These are people that feel like they own the Presidio,” Guittard says as she laughs a bit to herself. Guittard says that wildlife belongs in the Presidio first, “This is their property more than it is ours. The bottom line is that this is a national park.”
Marcus Hoffman, a San Francisco resident who frequents the Presidio to skate says that he has seen coyotes around the area, but they did not bother him at all. “I saw them walking along a trail while I was skating, but that’s about it. I heard of people being aggressed on by coyotes, but they seem pretty tame.”
“The concept that people who live in a national park believing that they should not have to deal with wild animals is kind of dumb,” says Hoffman.
“Honestly, I have no problems with coyotes here. But they seem to not be afraid of people at all,” says John Hogan, a museum curator of the Society of California Pioneers.
“People come out here for the nature. Coyotes are a part of that, and we shouldn’t try to change a place that we came to be a part of,” says Hogan.
Any and all encounters or sightings with coyotes are encouraged to be shared on the iNaturalist website. Sightings from the public will help the Trust understand the animals more, and it will help improve their management strategies.
Photo courtesy of http://www.presidio.gov/presidio-trust/planning/Coyotes-in-the-Presidio
This map shows trails where coyote activity is located. Red trails are closed to dogs, and yellow trails require caution.