HISTORY for the Record: How Coyotes Arrived in San Francisco

10714 on a horizon 

It has been almost five years since I first learned about this from a good friend and neighbor who who would not divulge his source since he had promised not to, and about six months since it was confirmed with this report to me, from someone also requesting anonymity. It’s time to publicize it.

The DNA of San Francisco coyotes matches that of coyotes north of the city — not south, as one might expect. San Francisco is a peninsula with no way to get to it from the north except over Golden Gate Bridge. So it has been theorized that coyotes walked across Golden Gate Bridge. Sounds exciting, but . . . whoa!

The following information on how coyotes really came to San Francisco was supplied to me by an individual who has been peripherally associated with what happened, actually observed it, and knows the person involved very well.

Yes, coyotes did come over the Golden Gate Bridge, but not on their own four legs. They were brought in from northern Mendocino County by a trapper.

These coyote releases occurred in and around 2002. They didn’t occur just once, they occurred several times, and at least 6 coyotes were involved — probably more. The fellow who brought them into the Presidio — that is where they were left — felt that they had a good chance of survival because of all the rodents and feral cats in the city — he wanted the coyotes to thrive.

Why did he bring them in?  He did so out of retribution for the 1998 ban on leg-hold traps which he had fought against! Interesting twist! He wanted these coyotes to be a problem for the residents. “Darn those liberal voters in San Francisco who voted against leg-hold traps.”  SF was on the route he took to visit relatives further south. It is on his way to visit the relatives that he transported and dropped the coyotes at the Presidio.

The U.S. government routinely shoots, poisons, traps and kills about 90,000 coyotes each year – mostly in rural areas. It’s brutal. California voters passed Proposition 4 on November 3, 1998, enacting California Fish & Game Code § 3003.13 and § 3003.2, which, broadly speaking, ban the use of certain traps and poisons to capture or kill wildlife in the state. Proposition 4 also authorizes criminal prosecution for violation of these subsections, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. Unfortunately, not all permutations of Proposition 4 were studied before it was passed. Now the more vicious and insidious collarrum snares are being used. 

What did he use to capture these coyotes? He used what was allowed: collarum snares, setting them on *low* hold so that they would not choke the animal to death. Collarum snares normally inflict a particularly horrifying death and are tricky to use, but this man knew how to set them to allow the coyotes to survive. Many were wounded by the snares in the process, but this fellow treated any infections before transporting them to the city and releasing them.

So — coyotes came to San Francisco as a result of the ban on leg-hold traps! Really interesting! The truth is more interesting than the fiction!

And, by the way, most San Francisco residents are thrilled to have this urban wildlife in the area, so no harm done. It’s nice to know how it happened. In fact, it turns out that these coyotes have a better chance for survival in their urban setting where guns, snares and traps are not allowed. But it still is heartbreaking to think of the cruelty inflicted on them to get them here: excruciating physical pain and terrifying fear. Also, these animals were torn away from their very strong family units, creating additional distress. We are lucky those we have survived, and have formed new family units. Moving coyotes can be tantamount to killing them, which is why the state does not allow it. We have about 20 coyotes in San Francisco now. They live in city parks and city golf courses.

Some of the San Francisco Coyotes I’ve Known

Coyotes Are Thriving In San Francisco

Interview by Courtney Quirin

From the Field

Connecting with: Janet Kessler, “Coyote Lady”
Interview by Courtney Quirin
 

“Long-time San Francisco resident, Janet Kessler has become a pioneer in the photo documentation of the lives of urban coyotes, capturing the intimate lives of that city’s coyotes for six years”.

If you would like to read more about what I do, read Courtney’s interview in the October 25th issue of  Bay Nature Connections. Thank you Courtney for a really nice interview!

Monkeys, by Courtney Quirin

Courtney recently moved to San Francisco where she is pursuing her talents as an artist and writer.

She comes to the city after studying and traveling in Ireland, New Zealand and Ethiopia — this last where she studied the impact of baboons on local farmers.

She is also an All American runner!

Please visit her website at: Courtney Illustrates.

 

Emma Marris, The Rambunctious Garden

Everyone should know about the large number of tree removals and massive defoliation happening in some of our major San Francisco parks, including McLaren Park, Mount Davidson, Glen Canyon among others. Do we want this massive intervention, intended to return these parks to dune grasses and scrubland, or do we want a different intervention based on a resiliency paradigm which preserves the wildlife habitat that has evolved over the last 150 years and supports most of our wildlife. Ecologists have discovered that the “go back to dates” chosen by “restorationists” are really only moments between two human altered landscapes. They are entirely arbitrary.

“Learn to love the inevitable changes, is really how I feel”, says Emma Marris. “If the choice is to fight for a [pristine past environment] and lose, or to work with nature as it changes and adapts to what we humans have done to planet Earth, respecting its dynamism and resilience as it shifts to new states, I vote for the latter.” And so do most park visitors in San Francisco.

In addition, Emma states that when anything is too biodiverse — one of everything — it is more like a zoo than nature. We need to leave areas alone and let them sort themselves out. Practitioners (those doing “restorations”) really need to read her book: The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.”

Squeals and Grooming

We heard the sirens — not so loud and long as usual — but we  thought there might be the possibility for a concert, so we waited. We were right! The sirens part was very short — I don’t think I caught any of it on the tape, but the coyotes continued their serenade well after the sirens had passed. And, the show didn’t end there. When they were finished with their yips, squeals and barks, one of them approached the other and began grooming — in this case, taking off ticks one be one — the same as I have shown before.

This particular video is different from my others. The entire first half of it was blurry — the camera mechanism for automatic focus just couldn’t seem to find itself — it kept zooming in and out without ever focusing, so all I had was one big blur for that section of the video. I was so disappointed that I might not be able to use the video clip. A friend of mine offered to help, and look what he came up with!! I think it’s fabulous, really superb!! And you get to hear the vocalizations throughout.

Rainy Dawn — in Sepia

It was wet, wet, wet outside, so, of course, when I came across coyotes making their rounds, they, too, were wet, wet, wet. These semi-silhouette photos were taken under very bad early and gloomy light conditions. My ISO must have been about 6400. Nevertheless, the individual fur strands stood out sharply against the background sky and I thought their forms on the rocks were absolutely beautiful. Under those lighting conditions, there really was no “color” in the photos, so I played with some “enhancement” possibilities and decided that sepia showed these forms off to advantage.

Rock formations and outcroppings exist in a great many of our Bay Area parks: these are mostly chert, but there are also a few serpentine formations.

Dad Relaxed, Sort of – by Charles Wood

Dad Where

Here in LA county Dad relaxed in late Tuesday’s sun. I took a few pictures of the road and of Dad. My sense of how things along the road should look, allowed me, with the naked eye, to spot him from 1100 feet away. I was about half way to him on the river bank.

I couldn’t tell which coyote it was. Its only with a photograph that I can identify a coyote by magnifying it in my camera’s display. Even from that distance, the pictures were of a Dad looking right at the camera.

Dad Relaxed

I wasn’t able to spot Dad until I was within 1100 feet. Dad would have spotted me a lot farther away than that. There’s nothing to obstruct his view of me, my dog, and my tripod coming over the bridge and down the river bank. Still, Tuesday, he wasn’t particularly concerned with us. Other days, he just gets mad.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

San Francisco Forest Alliance: Preserving Our Urban Forests & Wildlife Habitat

I hope everyone is as concerned about our wildlife habitat as I am. Please check out, and join, the new San Francisco Forest Alliance at SFForest.Net. Their goal is to preserve the forests, trees and thickets, all of which serve as wildlife animal habitat. Slated for removal in the new Natural Areas Program, NAP, plan are 18,000 trees, most of them mature and majestic specimens. They provide ecological benefits and species habitat which are still little understood by NAP. Here is the background:

Trees, forests, and dense thickets of underbrush — thickets which are impenetrable to dogs and humans — serve as wildlife habitat: they offer physical protection and food to wild animals. Almost all trees in San Francisco are non-native — there were only four native species of trees in the area when the Europeans arrived. Non-native berries such as Himalayan blackberry, cotoneaster, pyracantha, holly and others serve as food sources for birds and furry creatures. These are being ripped out in our parks for the shortsighted intention of  “restoring” the San Francisco area to what it might have been like in 1776 — mostly sand-dune grasses and understory species with little if any habitat value.

But the environment has totally changed since that time. The biggest change which altered the landscape forever has been the growth of a dense human population. This impacted the environment tremendously.  But when humans came, they also planted trees and shrubbery to help them deal with the harsh environment — mostly to hold in the loose sands which blew around everywhere, and as wind barriers. The plantings did more than this, they added greenery and beauty to the area. And they created a wildlife habitat which is now home to almost all of our wildlife. Because of these and other changes, even the original soil structure along with the microorganisms that were part of the sand dune ecosystem have been altered forever.

The new plantings grew and evolved. Ours, now, is a totally balanced ecosystem that has evolved over the last 250 years, and it is a healthy ecosystem. An indicator of the health of an ecosystem is it’s top predator. There are coyotes in San Francisco — our ecosystem is very healthy.  Now, along with our dense human population, we have paved roads, lots of automobiles, plenty of pollution  – we need our trees to combat the environmental effects of our dense population and the way we live.  San Francisco has the second smallest tree canopy of any dense urban center in the United States. Our urban forests are essential in terms of carbon sequestration and water sequestration — they help the environment and combat the effects of global warming. Every single tree counts. Yet more of our healthy, hard working naturalized trees are being ripped out and replaced with grasses and shrubs that are not sustainable in the present environment, all in the name of a clearly misguided environmentalism and false science.

Sustainability is something we all aspire to. However, in the time since the Native Plant program began in San Francisco, we have discovered that, in fact, native plants are not very self-sustainable. These native plants require a vast number of volunteer work hours to maintain them. In addition, our Recreation and Park Department is, literally, splashing poisonous pesticides on our parks’ non-native species regularly in order to accomplish their nativist goals. We have tried fighting this policy, but the use of poisons in the Park Department’s so-called “natural areas program”/NAP has actually increased 265% in one year alone, from 2009 to 2010. They are using these pesticides in parks where children play, where there is wildlife, where we walk our pets, and where there is a creek — the manufacturer of these chemicals warn strongly against this. The “natural areas program” is clearly not “natural” at all.

Critics of NAP question not only the program’s expenditures in budget-tight times but also the native plant advocates’ rhetoric, ”  ‘Restoration ecology’ is a euphemism for a kind of gardening informed by an almost cultish veneration of the ‘native’ and abhorrence of the naturalized, which is commonly characterized as ‘invasive,’ ” Arthur Shapiro, a distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, wrote city planning officials last October. (Sacramento Bee, 1/16/12). People are finally waking up to what is occuring in their parks — and they are desperately alarmed.

Images are worth a thousand words:

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