Be An Ambassador for Proper Stewardship of Our Urban Coyotes


You’ll see coyotes on trails in parks and sometimes even on sidewalks in neighborhoods. These are normal urban coyote behaviors and don’t mean the coyote is sick or out to get you.

Guidelines are really simple: just keep your distance and move away, and KEEP MOVING AWAY from the coyote, especially if you have a dog (which more often than not needs to be leashed), but even if you don’t have a dog. Please don’t feed or try to befriend or try to interact with them.

These guidelines are not simply for your own safety — though they are for that too — they are also for the well-being and healthy stewardship of our urban coyotes who otherwise could be (and have been) turned into “stray dogs” who hang around, beg, and chase cars. They need to be kept and valued as the wild and wily critters they were born to be.

Note that too much human “love” is just as harmful to their well-being as a human culture of fear. In some pockets of San Francisco, the pendulum has swung from fear to too much love for coyotes, usually through feeding, coupled with befriending, trying to get near, attempting to communicate, or even prolonged mutual visual contact. This human behavior, over time, can ATTRACT coyotes and break down existing natural and healthy safety barriers, causing a coyote to hang around listlessly, chase cars, approach, and beg — instead of hunt.  It’s best to, ”love their wildness at a distance and maybe just out of the corner of your eye”.

Please be an ambassador for our urban coyotes and invite others into the fold. For further explanations about how human misguided friendliness can impact coyotes negatively, please see:
Food: The Behavior Shaper, Demand Behavior.

Handling A Coyote Encounter: A Review

If you know this information, great! If you don’t, please review it. Also, help get it out there: no dog-owner should be without it. The chief issue folks have with coyotes is encounters with pets. These can be easily averted by walking away from them always, especially if you have a dog.

Here’s a flyer that I first designed and put out in 2014 as “How to Shoo Off A Coyote”. It has since morphed and been refined into its present form through watching hundreds and hundreds of coyote/pet/human encounters and observing what works best. I continue to subtly revise it to give you the guidelines that have proven to be the safest and most effective for avoiding incidents with pets. Please share this far and wide! “Leave no dog or dog-owner behind!” Pressing on the images below will enlarge them for better reading, or press the link below the images to read or download the pdf.  Janet

Here is a link for downloading the two sided PDF: Encounter GUIDELINES 2018

Who Studies Coyotes?

It turns out that coyotes are studied through many more disciplines than one might imagine. We tend to think that biologists are the primary group investigating coyotes, but this is not necessarily so, and when it is so, their studies tend to gravitate towards rather small focused slices of coyote biology and behavior rather than the entire picture. Ecologists are broader in their approach but usually not focused specifically on coyotes. Anthropology is another discipline which investigates coyotes: its ethnology branch studies the interaction of people with their environment, including with the animals in that environment — it has been suggested that I participate in this approach since my own university degree is in Anthropology (see Bio).

One of the more unusual disciplines to address coyotes is political science.  Christian Hunold, a Political Science Professor at Drexel University has just written and presented a paper on “Interurban Inclusivity: Urban Coyotes and the Politics of Wildlife” at the Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting on March 29th. Christian contacted me because of my blog and because of my unique long-term documentary relationship with a coyote population in the city. I’ve been happy to contribute to an understanding about them.

Because of Christian, WPSA academics reached out to me, inviting me to speak at their Environmental Political Theory Workshop, held at the Hyatt on March 28th, saying they, “would be grateful to introduce to this diverse group of mostly academics from a number of disciplines, including political science, philosophy, and environmental studies, your pioneering work on animal communication and human education. We’re also interested in exploring some of the underlying structural issues making life on urban wildlife difficult, and would be interested in framing your work as a type of ecological justice movement, aimed at making cities habitable places for all critters”.

I was honored to do so! I spoke to about 60 attendees with a slide presentation: “Janet Kessler: Zooming-in on Coyotes,” about myself, coyote population behavior and family interactions, dogs and coyotes, and finally the social and political landscape in which all of this is taking place here in San Francisco. There were questions afterwards.

The ultimate purpose of the association workshop was to investigate new political models for looking at the urban landscape which now includes wildlife — so that’s how I fit in. I’ll add the link to Christian’s paper once he finalizes and publishes it.

So thank you Professors Yogi Hendlin, Emily Ray and Christian Hunold for including me in your workshop.

Here are 20 of the 62 slides slides I used as talking points to the group:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.