June 6, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle - California
HUNTERS SHOOT AGRESSIVE COYOTES IN PRESIDIO
Anyone who thought urban coyotes could learn to live in harmony with people in the city got a jolt of reality this week. An aggressive coyote that had tussled with dogs and frightened joggers in the Presidio was shot and killed Saturday night by a trained hunter from California Wildlife Services.
This is starting to look like a regular occurrence. This makes three coyotes shot and killed in the city's parks in less than a year. A pair were taken out in Golden Gate Park in July after they attacked a dog.
Carl Friedman, director of San Francisco's Animal Care and Control Department, said the coyote was shot after it showed up in the unfenced backyard of one of the Presidio rental properties Saturday afternoon. The coyote approached the renter, his child and the family dog, but they scared it away. Later that night, the coyote returned and attacked the dog, Friedman said.
That was the last straw for the nonprofit that runs the Presidio. After consultation with the National Park Service and state Department of Fish and Game, a sharpshooter was dispatched. Presidio Trust officials did not return calls for comment, but sent out a letter to residents that included a list of unacceptable behaviors by the coyote since late May.
"They certainly didn't do this precipitously. They really went through the process," Friedman said. "I was astounded to hear that there had been four or five instances in the general area."
Friedman may be astounded, but casual park users are simply frightened. On May 19th, Molly Harcos was jogging along Lincoln Avenue with Cory, her sister's little bichon frise, when she sensed something was following them.
"I turned around, and there was a coyote about 10 feet behind me," she said. "I turned and faced him, and he put his head down and charged me. I had a heart attack, basically."
Luckily, Harcos was able to flag down a car at that moment, and the coyote slinked away. But that later that week, a coyote attacked the dog of another jogger, Corrine Keating, in nearly the same spot.
There continue to be more coyote sightings in the city, increasing the potential for clashes with city dwellers and their pets.
"Rec and Park is keenly aware of the situation," spokeswoman Rose Dennis said. "They are starting to get more and more assertive with human beings. People on our staff are starting to get concerned."
They're not the only ones. Readers who live in the Glen Park area report seeing a pair of coyotes tracking people walking small dogs. Worse yet, the canines have also been appearing at the Glen Park playground in the late morning hours.
Believe me, all we need is for a coyote to bite a kid at the playground to kick off a full-scale coyote panic.
So what can be done? Well, Golden Gate Park will be putting out new warning signs, but there is a concern that if more trails are closed to dogs, the coyotes may simply expand their territory.
Besides, people don't seem to be getting the message. Neighbors in Glen Park worked with Rec and Park to post flyers, hang notices on doors, and put signs in the park warning people not to feed the coyotes.
The result? In many cases, the flyers were torn down. Some misguided soul must think he or she is doing a good deed by feeding the coyotes and drawing them into the neighborhood. What they are really doing, of course, is luring them into a sharpshooter's sights.
There aren't many alternatives. In its letter to residents, the Presidio Trust said it had "contacted wildlife rescue organizations and zoos to see if they would accept a coyote for relocation." Not surprisingly, with coyotes breeding like crazy in the city, none was interested.
So the general strategy seems to be to ignore the growing coyote population and hope for the best.
"We'll leave them alone as long as they are not a problem," said Fish and Game spokesman Steve Martarano. "But the first issue is public safety."
In an attempt to cut down on coyote contact with humans and pets, the Presidio has closed many trails and some roads to dogs. Local residents, who may have moved to the neighborhood because they liked the idea of walking their house pets in the park, can only look glumly at the roped-off areas where they can no longer go.
"The coyotes won," one resident said. "We let them in, and now they've won."