HISTORY for the Record: How Coyotes Arrived in San Francisco

10714 on a horizon 

Preface: Please note that coyotes are indigenous to California, including to San Francisco. There are descriptions of them from the first Europeans who arrived here. See excerpt from Malcolm Margolin’s The Ohlone Way. Coyotes in the area were wiped out by mankind for a while in the 1950s with the use of poisons and guns, but they were always here before that. They have now repopulated the area that always had been their home.

It has been almost five years since I first learned about this from a good friend and neighbor 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 collarum 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.

[Addendum: It turns out that coyotes were extremely sparse in Marin in and around 2002 when these coyotes suddenly appeared in San Francisco. There was no reason whatsoever for them to disperse over the Golden Gate Bridge, I’m told; my original posting on this subject was posted in 2009: https://coyoteyipps.com/2009/11/13/coyotes-return-to-sf-the-story-expands/#comments]

Some of the San Francisco Coyotes I’ve Known

Coyotes Are Thriving In San Francisco


She kept scratching and scratching. She’d get up to move on, and then immediately again be on her haunches, scratching.

She kept it up for over 20 minutes, with that leg boing, boinging up and down for that length of time. The scratching has been particularly intense over the last few days. I’m hoping that it’s just a bug that she hasn’t been able to get, or maybe it’s just that there are a lot of them: ticks or fleas.

I don’t know if she’s trying to ease an itch or an irritation. Her coat is extremely thick, which impedes the claws from reaching whatever it is that is bothering her. Shedding has begun and will continue through June, so maybe the scratching is helping to remove some of the loose fur.

My one worry with constant scratching of this sort is the possibility of mange — a killer. Mange results from a mite that buries itself into the skin, causing severe discomfort which the coyote attempts to relieve through such intense scratching that the fur is slowly removed, leaving the skin exposed with lesions. This is a prime killer of coyotes. Apparently all canines, including domestic dogs, carry the mites which are transferred from mother to pups via cuddling during the first few days of life. Most canines live in harmony with their mites — but things could get out of balance when the immune system is compromised or if there are other underlying health issues.

There are no bare patches of skin, so, I’m hoping it’s just fleas or ticks. I’m monitoring this one.

Coyotes As Neighbors, Let’s Get To Know Them!

Here’s a full 20 minute presentation I created for my/our new site: CoyoteCoexistence.Com. I began the site with a couple of friends in order to stop the trapping and killing of coyotes in Atlanta last fall.

It’s through Yipps that we connected for this project. We organized and flew to Atlanta to present the case against trapping at a town meeting. We printed a large packet of flyers and helped publicize the event. In the end, money that had been collected to hire a trapper was returned — the trapper was not hired!  This was a clear sign that we should proceed with our efforts!

Presentation Title Page

Presentation Title Page

This video is an aid for future presentations. It is cutting-edge in its unique approach, concentrating on coyote himself! A muted version will also be available for presentation by others at meetings, and so will shorter clips of specific sub-topics, such as “shooing-off”. Contact CoyoteCoexistence.Com at our email on that site for further information.

Papas Have Work To Do!

Pop&Rat20130331If you see a male coyote trekking along with a rodent in its mouth, it’s probably because a new family has arrived, or is about to arrive! The new papa, along with other members of the pack/family have a big job!! They will bring home the bacon while Mom holds up in her den nursing the newly born pups and keeping them warm. That’s the biggest job! The important point is that the family works together from day one to raise the pups!  It’s altruistic and very exciting!

For six weeks, Moms will keep their pups in the dens. Papa and any remaining pups — now adults — from previous litters will bring food to supplement her hunting, which will be more limited during this time because of the pups.  After six weeks, food will continue to be brought back to the pups, but it will have been eaten and partly digested — then regurgitated for the young ones. This will be their first solid food — pablum, or baby food! As time moves along, entire rodents — dead ones — will be brought for the youngsters to feast on, then live ones, and eventually they’ll be taken out to do their own hunting.

I have often seen dads and yearlings bringing in prey like this well before any pups were born. Could they be helping a female who is having trouble hunting? Or could they be practicing for when this activity becomes mandatory? Possibly some of these rodents are buried by the den area, creating a cache of readily available food in case of hard times? Growing youngsters need daily nutrients to develop properly — good parents will prepare for hard times.

I have seen a coyote yearling transporting a rat, like this, to its home base, even though there happened to be no pups in its pack that year. I’ve wondered if, in this case, no pups were even born, or if no pups survived, or if they all died.  I have only seen this “transportation of food” during the breeding season, which is why I wonder about what was going on in the case where there were no pups. Maybe food was too plentiful and too readily available. If you are full, you may want to take it to a special place to bury it — saving it for a rainy day?

News: Happy Ending!

lucky little gal

lucky little gal

Story sent from Canada:

I received a call from Animal Care and Control today.  They had picked up a coyote that had been caught in a leg-hold trap.

The guy at ACC said that he just couldn’t put her down.  So, I met him out at the rehabilitation center where the coyote is now in one of our outdoor enclosures.

Although the coyote would rather be free, at least she is still alive.  She doesn’t look as though she was hurt by the leg hold trap and she appears to be healthy.

I gave her a nice dinner for her stressful day.  Since she doesn’t appear hurt, we’ll release her soon as soon as we find a good place for her.  The bad news is that we can’t release her back to where she came from.


How nice that they called you! It gives me hope to know that there are good people out there. I wonder what the story was and why the trapper didn’t get her.

I hope there is a good place for her to be released.


Of course it is her home which she is tied to: her family and territory. The ones released by Stan Gehrt tried to make it back to their homes. They all died in the process. If released too far from home, there are more obstacles — people and cars — that the coyote has to deal with.

Not only that – in her desperate search for food she could get into trouble with people and their pets!!!


Someone called ACC to say that they had seen her in the leg-hold trap.  So there is another good person out there.

We do have places to release coyotes.  Unfortunately it won’t be with her family or in her own territory.  And, they don’t all make it when they are released in a new place.  I hate this, but at least we are giving her a chance.


Couldn’t it be done at night – who would know?  The whole experience will be aversive enough to keep her from going into the area where she was trapped.


Unfortunately, I do not know where she was found.  They don’t want me putting her back in the same area.


The attached is not a good photo, but a photo none the less of our latest visitor at the rehabilitation center.  She is curled up in front of a heat lamp on a drizzly day.  She ate all of her kibble last night but neither of the rats that I left for her.  I guess she doesn’t like them if they are not alive and running from her.  She will get more kibble, rats, insects and other goodies tonight.

I am still working on getting the location of the spot where she was found.  It may take me a few more days.  Once I find out where she was found, I’ll get her released close by.

I know that she is not keen on where she is and she is afraid.  However, she is warm, has food and shelter and it is temporary.  We will get her back where she belongs soon.


It’s a great picture! And you are an angel!!!


I found out where the coyote was found.  I am working on a clandestine release within a couple of blocks.  Will keep you posted.




Just wanted you to know that the coyote brought in for rehabilitation was returned to her neighborhood on Wednesday night about 11:30 pm.  I wasn’t there, but here is what was relayed to me.  She was at the back of the kennel during the drive until she got close to her neighborhood when she could tell that she was almost home.  Once the door was opened, she bolted out.  About halfway to the tree line, she turned around and looked at the person who released her.  Then she went on her way to find her family.

We all just love a happy ending.

Breeding Season: “With Pups”

Coyotes give birth at about this time of year — usually from March through April. A bulging belly might reveal that they are heavy with pups right now.

How do coyotes experience their pregnancies?

The extra weight slows them down and they get tired — much like humans. Climbing steep embankments takes greater and greater effort as their pregnancies come to full term.

They have trouble scratching themselves: that back leg is hampered from reaching the itch by the bulging abdomen.

Being a curious critter, they want to know what is going on, so they examine their bellies where the nipples are: they seem to feel the changes they are going through. When is it that they actually “know” they’ll be having pups? When does the rest of the pack become aware of this? At a certain point, dens are prepared: might this be the signal to the rest of the pack about what is in store? How does she know the time is right for building her den?

Behaviorally, during their gestation period, they become more secretive and withdrawn than ever. They try to not be seen, and they don’t wander far from home. This is how they protect themselves and keep out of harm’s way.

One big behavioral change is that they don’t howl so often at sirens. Might this be so as to not reveal their locations during this vulnerable time for them?

Timeline. When the young are born, they will remain secluded in the den for about 6 weeks.  Mom is required to be there to nurse the youngsters and to provide warmth for them. At the end of this time period, her pups will emerge from the den — and she will slowly wean them, first onto regurgitated food brought home by Dad and other adult family members, and then onto whole rodents which are killed first. The final step in this process will involve teaching them to hunt on their own.

Few people ever see coyotes. You have an even slimmer chance of ever seeing a pup. If you are one of the lucky few, it usually isn’t until about July that you’ll see them, though you may be able to spot one as early as June.

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