Today I got to better know, through another coyote lover, a little coyote who frequents one of the tourist spots in San Francisco. Like most tourist spots in San Francisco, this was also a residential neighborhood and the place where the coyote resides. Many folks have sent me emails worrying about her because she was being fed by lots of people — by both residents of the area and by tourists — and folks were allowing their pets either to chase her or to interact with her. Eventually, this could spell no good for the coyote. Folks can actually unknowingly shape coyote behavior and the outcome of a situation by their uninformed actions. Feeding or interacting with an urban coyote can often spell doom for the coyote. This coyote kept her distance from people, but she showed no fear of them, which also worried some people. I had already visited the area and posted some tri-lingual signs with guidelines that all folks should follow. There are not enough informational and alert signs put out by the City, to inform folks that there is a coyote living in the area along with guidelines to help protect both the coyote and all pets from each other.
Bipasha had contacted me about advocating for coyotes with her photography. This was the coyote she was photographing. We decided to meet.
I arrived early for our meeting, well before dawn, so I walked around. Two friendly, older fellows who spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese (I know because I asked them) were doing their daily exercises at this spot-with-a-view. They told me that they saw the coyote regularly — that she was part of the neighborhood, and that they liked and accepted her as part of the environment. Because of their enthusiasm, I thought of giving them the link to the Mandarin version of the video, “Coyotes As Neighbors”. So I asked them if they had Internet access. They waved their hands showing me that the Internet was not part of their lives. It was a reminder that many people do not have Internet access, and information must reach them by other means.
Soon I met the first runner of the morning. Dawn was just beginning to break. He had slowed down to take a breath after a long, arduous climb. He told me he was delighted to be in San Francisco and couldn’t get enough of it. I asked him about his coyote experiences. It turns out that he was in the City only for a day. He comes to San Francisco once a year for a medical conference — and before the conference he made it a practice to take this trying run. He felt he had fallen a little out-of-shape compared to last year. Interestingly, he told me that, yes, he had seen a coyote each of the two previous years during his run in this location and he had always been delighted to see them. Then he had to run on, so I asked that, if he saw a coyote on his way down the hill, could he please yell “coyote”, and he said he would.
This is when Bipasha appeared — she had found me through my blog which she liked. As she began to tell me her story, the doctor suddenly reappeared excitedly and out-of-breath at the top of the hill again. He beamed a wide grin and said, “a coyote is on its way up this road.” Ahhh, he had seen the coyote and called me the way I had asked him to! We thanked him, and before he turned around to go, there she was, “The Small, Very Loved Coyote”. I asked Bipasha if the coyote had a name, and was told it was Cai (for coyote, of course). Bipasha is a lady who has spent a lot of time watching and photographing Cai. She has developed a deep love and substantial knowledge of this coyote’s particular habits. For instance, the coyote comes to this spot at just about the same time every day, usually following the same route. When she arrives, she stands very still at various spots and looks around to assess the goings-on — you might call this “patrol duty” — many coyotes do this. The coyote knows Bipasha and they smile at each other — there appears to be understanding and respect between them, and there appears to be mutual trust: each knows that the other will not approach or harm the other. Bipasha is actually still a little afraid of the coyote. When she saw her first coyote, she was absolutely thrilled, but she would wait in the safety of her home, behind a window, and watch, too fearful to venture out looking for Cai. Then one day, someone told her where the coyote had been seen, and Bipasha took a chance, holding on to her fear, and found the coyote. It’s been love ever since.
Cai learned to hear which car belonged to her friend and both began appearing at the the same spot at the same time. Bipasha thinks the coyote actually waits for her. At this “meeting spot”, the coyote hangs out, and the few tourists at this early hour take her photo. Today, no one feeds her. After a while, she moves to various other locations: behind a fence, on a grassy area, down the walkway. She always stops where we can see her — she makes no attempt to hide or run off. She exudes calm friendliness and trust . . . and a gentle sort of wariness, keeping her distance. I, too, soon fall in love with her as I listen to Bipasha talking about her routines and behaviors and the love she has developed for the coyote. The coyote soon hops down, and Bipasha says that it looks as though the coyote is about to move on. Then Cai slips out of sight. Bipasha tells me where the coyote has gone. She has actually followed the coyote a number of times and knows her routes.
We walk down a hill where, surprise to me, but not such a surprise to Bipasha, there is Cai again, exactly where Bipasha said she would be, probably 1/4 mile from where we had originally met her. This, I’m told, is Cai’s second “hangout”. We watch her sniff and cross the street a few times. She now looks as though she’s at loose ends — “Where should I go now?”, but maybe it’s just that she feels a little uncomfortable with a number of people around and a car pulling out of a driveway. Bipasha then picks up cues that the coyote is about to leave for the day. Bipasha tells me that Cai will begin to go and then she will turn back several times to make sure she is not being followed — and this is what happens. Bipasha used to follow Cai, but she stopped when the coyote “told” her not to follow. I knew exactly what Bipasha was talking about, because I, too, have “read” coyotes telling me that they don’t want me to follow.
Many folks apparently have fallen in love with this particular coyote, who by all standards would have to be called “sweet” — a real sweetheart. The majority of neighbors want to protect her from harm. She “belongs” to these residents. Bipasha and I walked up the hill. We feel that something needs to be done right away about the feeding and about folks allowing their dogs to chase or interact with her. We’ll begin by designing a sign: “A Fed Coyote Is A Dead Coyote”, and then we’ll plan more — we’ll do what we can to keep Cai, the Little Very Loved Coyote, safe, happy, healthy . . . and wild, which will at the same time keep folks and pets safe and away from her.