Response to The Chronicle’s “An infamous S.F. coyote named Carl”

There is a lot of misinformation, speculation, and sensationalism in this article. The sad part is that a lot of it is supplied by our ACC and by an organization that does not know our San Francisco coyotes first-hand: Why would they make such incindiary statements? I need more room to comment than allowed in the comments section, so I’ve posted my comment here: 

1) The article states: “To some wildlife experts, the warning is more urgent than ever, since the death of an alpha male coyote like Carl may spur a breeding frenzy”. My response: I’ve read such possibilities in academic studies, but the alpha male’s death by gunshot, over a year ago did no such thing. A new male soon took the killed coyote’s place, and indeed both the alpha female and her daughter became mothers together on this one territory for just this one breeding season. AND THAT IS THE END OF THE DOUBLE FAMILY. That alpha male has left and all I see these days is the daughter and a male who may be her brother — these are younger coyotes who were born on and grew up on the territory and are now taking it over as the reigning alphas. Again, we have a stable pair in the eastern part of the park and this is due to their territoriality. With more food available, such as might happen with a big increase in feeding, what might happen is that the territories could shrink in size so that eventually we might have more and smaller territories. Right now we have about 20 territories. But it will not spur a breeding frenzy. Coyotes die and are replaced as a normal and continuing life process.

2) When the alpha male approached the child — note that the child was not touched, was not “attacked” — he was protecting his denning area. ALL alpha males and females protect their denning areas. The denning area, with three month old pups was right there. NO signs were up about a den. I offered to docent, hand out flyers and put up more signs, but no one wanted to respond to me. It’s the fault of the city more than anything else for not educating the public and putting up prominent and visible signs: they should have known about this very natural denning behavior and prepared the public for it. The year before, the city cordoned off a section of the botanical garden that included a den; but they did nothing of the sort in 2021.

3) Contrary to what the article states, the killed alpha coyote’s mate did not move into Corona Heights. She remained and remains in the Lake Merced area with a new mate. Rather, the killed alpha coyote’s SON has continued as the new Corona Heights alpha male while his dad, before being killed, moved to the Botanical Garden. Please note that Carl himself, when he moved into the Botanical Garden of Golden Gate Park, took the place of the previous alpha male there who probably died. This is how it works: vacancies are filled.

4) The article states: “This rapid cycle of denning and procreating . . .” — My response: WHAT is this supposed to mean?  There is NO rapid cycle of denning and procreating. Litters are born just ONCE a year. The first litter we’ve had at Corona Heights after two years of no pups was this year: two pups were born this year. This is normal. There is absolutely NO “rapid cycle of denning and procreating” occurring at Corona. Whoever is supplying this information doesn’t know what they are talking about. Carl’s litter in 2021 — he was killed when they were 3 months old — was seven, which is the upper limit in size for a litter, but most of the pups didn’t survive. The information and language in the Chronicle article is irresponsible and provocative.

5) The article states: “Some have suggested that one of Carl’s sons successfully “seduced” the dead father’s girlfriend. And coyotes are constantly migrating into the city, probably roaming from the Marin Headlands and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.”  My response: Again, there is absolutely no truth to either of these statements. Carl’s son who was two years old last year paired up with a 1 year old most likely from Glen Canyon. They did not have pups last year — there were no pups at Corona last year or the year before. They had pups for the first time ever this year: they had two pups. And for the second statement, please tell me which coyotes have migrated into the city from Marin — I don’t believe there are any.

6) The best way to avoid encounters with coyotes is to stay away from them, especially if you have a dog. Coyotes are very defensive against dogs who constantly go after them: they’ve been taught to be this way by aggressive dogs who go after them, chase them. Small dogs and children must be kept away from coyotes: this means you have to be vigilant if you are in a coyote area: all coyote areas should have signs saying this. If you start hazing — scaring off — coyotes indiscriminately, they eventually get used to it. Therefore, they should be hazed or scared away only when they are actually approaching your dog who hopefully is leashed and next to you.

7) The “stakeout” talked about in the article by Captain Amy Corso of ACC was set up by me. I did all the work. She had the badge and gave the ticket. I found the feeder, I found where the food was being left, I found the time the food was being left, and I found where the Captain could hide. ACC is not very good at giving credit where credit is due.

8) Coyotes don’t “drift through” San Francisco, as ACC states in the article. We have a stable situation of families on territories and very few transients. The population does not peak in September, in fact, that’s when it diminishes as the yearlings begin to disperse. Peak of population is right after the pups are born in April.

9) The article states: “Brace for what could be an eventful mating season”. My response: It sounds like sensationalism to me. WHERE does this information come from?

10) OF COURSE a new male entered Carl’s territory — vacated niches are always filled. The new male in Corona happened to be Carl’s son who actually grew up there. He filled Carl’s empty spot. This is normal behavior: I’ve seen it in all the parks. After Carl was killed, a new male replaced him in Golden Gate Park, having moved there from Glen Canyon.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. leal charonnat
    Oct 14, 2022 @ 19:17:57

    Good replay to SFC article.

    Aside – actually an expanded article from one who seems to have a rather deep understanding of coyotes in SF – one that laid out what policies the city should be taking (thinking here of already mentioned: postings in areas of pups, etc.)

    Also – would seem that the coyote population is not surviving by getting snacks from human neighbors – I would proffer the rat and rodent population is kept well under control by their presence. I missed any pertinent discussion of that possibility.

    Personal note – on a visit some years ago sited a coyote WALKING THE SIDEWALK while walking to the Legion of Honor – “he” seemed quite nonchalant (was across the street) with a very purposeful walk, completely ignoring us.

    Also – over here in the Oakland hills, coyotes tromp through our neighborhood on a regular basis (thinking they are using the PGE power towers right-of-way as a path between Contra Costa county wild lands and the Rockridge area filled with tender morsels (aka house cats let out at night) Our policy is no cats out between late afternoon and early morning.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 14, 2022 @ 19:48:56

      Thanks, Leal, for your comment and thoughts.

      The major part of their diet does come from their hunting gophers, voles, squirrels, etc: they are very capable of getting their own food for survival, as you stated. What is so harmful about humans feeding them isn’t about their survival, it’s about the side effect and consequences of taming the coyotes, no matter how subtle the taming has been: feeding draws them closer to humans and eventually causes them to feel comfortable around humans so they end up hanging around, approaching people and begging for food — and that begging can turn into “demanding” food. There is potential for issues when this sort of taming happens because even a tame coyote retains his self-protective survival instincts.

      The best policy the city can offer is education. But the City of San Francisco is doing the minimum in this area. When I’ve offered to help, for instance to put out more signs, I’ve been slammed by them.

      Thanks for sharing your story about the Legion of Honor fella: yes, if left alone, they leave us alone. They seem to have agendas like we do: walking down the street very purposefully, as you saw happen!! Dogs and cats cause the main problems which people can be educated about — but they then have to abide by the rules and many don’t want to.

      I’ve basically told people not to let cats out ever in a coyote area, but you are right, late afternoon to early morning would be sufficient most of the time.

      Again, thanks, Leal!! Appreciatively, Janet

    • leal charonnat
      Oct 14, 2022 @ 19:57:24

      Actually the entire Bay Area needs a coyote education policy – since they can’t read to stay within city borders.

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 14, 2022 @ 20:07:39

      Yep! :))

  2. James
    Oct 14, 2022 @ 20:04:49

    Coyotes are too timid a beast to cross the GG bridge on their own so it is pretty evident the coyotes were illegally trapped and transported into SF. As such the killing of ‘carl’ is a good start to eventual eradication. This love affair by many is an indication of someone with too much time on their hands.


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