Friendly Coyote Video, by John Cremer

It started when I was playing with Minnie when the Coyote appeared. She watched for a bit, and then started romping around as I threw the ball to Minnie. I tried to remain quiet and still and eventually she came down near us. I did not encourage any contact, and broke off play with Minnie and the coyote moved along.

At no time did I feel threatened, same goes for our dog, who basically ignored the coyote.

HELLO Kitty, from a Neighborhood Friend


Why Are Coyotes Sighted Regularly in The Neighborhoods?

Summary/Abstract: Coyotes have been seen repeatedly in the parks’ surrounding neighborhoods and beyond ever since they first appeared in San Francisco. Their trekking is a build-in part of their behavior and occurs mostly during the darker hours. These sightings are not so anomalous as we’ve been told they are.

Sightings. The following was posted on the Golden Gate Heights *Nextdoor* site here in San Francisco yesterday morning: “I now have seen Coyotes in many unexpected places in SF This time a block from where I live. this one was a pretty small, healthy looking, probably female. I hope she eats the 15th Ave Skunks!” On the same day, in another *Nextdoor* site, Westwood Park, this was posted: “Saw a young coyote walking down Colon Ave about 10am this morning. Please watch your cats to be sure they are safe.”

Many similar postings on social media, and many more by word of mouth, reach me regularly, be these from Filbert Street, Cow Hollow, Park Merced, Diamond Heights, Mission Street, etc.  Sightings of coyotes in neighborhoods have been noted since I started documenting San Francisco coyotes over ten years ago, though more people now know about them due to the social media. Coyotes have been seen trotting down my own street in the late mornings, infrequently but repeatedly for some time — nowhere near a park.

Some of my neighbors are thrilled and accept this in stride; others worry for themselves and their small pets, or they say it’s “wrong”. The sightings are usually in the very early morning or in the evenings, but not always — coyotes are not nocturnal animals, though they do tend mostly to avoid human activity times and areas.

When coyotes are seen in neighborhoods — trotting down a street or standing at an intersection, passing through yards or resting there — it is still reported with a bit of surprise because it’s not where people expect to see coyotes and it’s where, purportedly, “they should not be.”

Backdrop: Coyotes are native only to America where their range has expanded considerably over the last 100 years or so from the southwestern part of the continent to all over. More recently, over the last 20 years or so, they have been moving into most urban areas. It’s a relatively new development which is being studied all over the US and Canada: Chicago has 2000 of them, Los Angeles reports 5000 of them. They are in Central Park in New York City, in Atlanta, in Westchester, NY. There are multiple dozens here in San Francisco — but not hundreds and hundreds of them — we are a small peninsula, and territoriality limits their numbers in any particular area.

Various reasons and explanations have been given for coyote sightings in neighborhoods or outside the parks. For instance, we have been told that adverse weather conditions — say, our recent 4-year drought — was a factor in neighborhood sightings — that coyotes were expanding their hunting range into neighborhoods and increasing their time there to compensate for the diminished food supply in the parks — therefore, the sightings there.

Weather may be a contributing factor, but it is not the sole nor the primary factor for their being in the neighborhoods, otherwise I simply wouldn’t have been seeing them outside of the parks so regularly, in some cases daily, over the last ten years, well before the recent drought and when their population was sparser, and even now after the rains this winter.

An explanation for increased coyote sightings within the parks at certain times is when pups begin venturing further from their dens, or when parents can be seen patrolling and protecting den areas — they suddenly appear from nowhere. Throughout the year dispersing individuals (juveniles who leave home) may turn up in unexpected places until they eventually find their own niches, which may lead them miles outside of the city. All of these explanations — all valid — are offered as anomalies to the norm (the norm being that they aren’t in the neighborhoods), and they all add a little more to our understanding of coyote movements in an urban area, but they miss the bigger picture which I have been seeing.

The bigger picture. Each coyote requires about a square mile to sustain itself, though it has been found that smaller areas sometimes can support them: need for the resources on the land is what drives their territorial behavior. To this end families claim areas and drive out non-family coyotes in order to preserve the resources there for themselves and their youngsters. This is how territoriality works in the parks and open spaces. It helps keep the population down in those places.

But these same coyotes who often claim some of the largest and lushest parks (with streams of water, grasslands and plenty of thickets as resources), have been seen trekking through neighborhoods routinely. Why don’t they stick to the parks and hide out just there? Why are we seeing them in the neighborhoods? It appears to be because of that same territorial imperative — an instinct built into their behavior through years of evolution — causing them to reach out to know the wider area, to confirm or redefine their boundaries, to know what is going on there and check it out, to push the envelope or be pushed back, to move into unclaimed or vacated areas, to search for a mate.

It is because of this behavior that they came to most of our cities, and then city parks in the first place. And it is because of this behavior that they are seen outside of the parks, not only close to the peripheries but in the neighborhoods even further out. Truth be told, trekking through the ‘hoods and outside of park boundaries is part-and-parcel of urban coyote behavior: It’s what coyotes do. It’s a function of their daily territorial behavior. If and when they linger in any particular area, it is because of some attractant. These are my observations, supported by the reported observations of others in the city throughout many years.

In addition, coyotes who claim smaller parks as their territories may occupy several natural open spaces — their territories are fragmented and they must move between them, crossing through neighborhood areas to do so. So neighborhoods are not excluded from their ranging areas.

Several years ago I was able to follow along on a number of early evening coyote treks which I wrote up. I went along to find out where they went and what they did — it was a real honor that they allowed this. Here is an example of one of their shorter treks: Mapping Trekking Behavior.  Other posts about coyotes in neighborhoods include Coyotes in Neighborhoods, and In The ‘Hood.

What to do. So, seeing coyotes in neighborhoods is something that does occur regularly, whether or not the weather has impacted their food supply, or whether or not they are dispersing. What can be done? Is there an issue to be resolved? Not really, except to please just be aware of it so that you won’t be startled by one. Also, please don’t allow pets to be out-of-doors without supervision: even though coyotes avoid humans (unless they have been taught to approach by food-conditioned) coyotes don’t have the same aversion towards pets. If you are walking your dog and see a coyote, please tighten your leash and continue walking away from that coyote, dragging your pet if you have to.

If coyotes begin hanging around your home and you don’t want them there, please remove all attractants, including bird-seed and compost which attract small rodents which, in turn, attract the coyotes. If you need help with diverting a regular trekking pattern away from your yard, please send me a comment which I will reply to privately: I can put you in touch with the right hands.

For an introductory summary of what to know and what to do about coyotes in the city, please see Coyotes As Neighbors or see the list of resources listed on this website on the first page, at the top.


I first noticed this coyote when I saw her slipping down the hill as she tried hunting: she appeared not to have too much trouble in her battle against gravity, but I thought I would videotape it. Then she found a ball and discovered that she could use this gravity to help her play ball! She had a great time and put on an excellent show!

To combat their loneliness and boredom, *loner* coyotes — those that have dispersed from their families and no longer have a social group with whom to be social or play — often create amazingly imaginative play and games. Doing so not only helps fill the time with fun, it also stimulates their growing bodies and minds and helps them grow into more innovative problem-solvers. Most coyotes that I know are happy critters.

The video is a little long and becomes repetitive — I did not cut it because I wanted everyone to see how involved a little coyote could become in a game she herself invented.

Coyote Battles A Crackling Water Bottle

Coyotes are happy critters. Each has a very different family situation, history and personality, so no two coyotes will ever be alike. Here is a playful *loner* coyote. She was *dispersed* from her territory and family a year-and-a-half ago and has not teamed up with a mate, so she is alone.

Since coyotes are very social, what do they do when there is no one to socialize with — no family? How do loners spend their time? Many folks have commented to me that they see *boredom* and *loneliness* as driving some of their behaviors. Here is a video showing a loner coyote entertaining herself with a crackling water bottle. She treats it as though it’s dangerous prey.  She seems to really *get into it*. I have watched this same coyote play with balls, dead branches, clods of dirt, tossed packaging. I have seen other coyotes play with these same things and also pieces of human clothing or dropped children’s toys. It’s always thrilling to watch and somewhat infectious!

Many folks have told me that they feel as though the coyote was actually *performing* for the various onlookers, all of whom showed and expressed their delight at the coyote’s antics. Coyotes are superb at reading this kind of reaction, and may be spurred on in their play by it.

Dogs pass close by through *her* park shortly before the bottle battle began

Others see this play as *displacement behavior* of a very anxious coyote. Living in an urban environment creates continual stresses which may cause coyotes to *act out* some of their frustrations. In which cases are one and not the other going on? Or are there always degrees of both?  Whichever the case is, we’re trying to create the conditions that make our urban environments as hospitable as possible for coyotes so that survival is not a chore for them. Please follow the guidelines by reviewing the video, Coyotes As Neighbors.

Coyote Tail . . . Fun, Fleas, or More?

This video, with it’s title, needs almost no descriptive text except to explain the high jumps. Coyotes jump when they get excited. This coyote has seen something on the other side of the hill which we can’t see. I would guess it’s a dog that simply caught her attention. She spends a lot of her time sitting and observing what’s going on, but lately she’s been overwhelmed by fleas and many of her behaviors reflect this. You can actually see the flea bites all over her face.  I was told that too much interacting with what goes on in an urban landscape, including from observers, can cause acting out, but Turid Rugaas, expert behaviorist and dog trainer, has assured me that this is not the case.

Dive-bombed by a Bluejay

People, dogs, and now, darn . . . . a sky-diving bluejay to deal with! This bluejay dive-bombed this coyote for ten full minutes, squawking harshly and incessantly as it did so, in an attempt to get the coyote to leave. The coyote ignored it as much as he could, meandering or standing there stoically still as though it wasn’t there, but at times giving in to ducking, flinching and folding back his ears, as seen in the last two photos.

The coyote never once *looked* at the bluejay, though, of course, he was very aware of it. This particular bluejay interacts in this way regularly with this coyote within about a 100 foot area.

We all forget that all those beautiful — and sometimes harsher — springtime songbird sounds are actually battle cries of little critters trying to protect their territories from other little critters or vying for a mate. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in nature!

[click on any of these smaller photos to enlarge them and see as a slide show]

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