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 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.

Some of the San Francisco Coyotes I’ve Known

Coyotes Are Thriving In San Francisco