San Francisco’s Coyotes are Back, and They are Thriving, by Bianca Taylor [PODCAST]

Page & Podcast: https://www.kqed.org/news/11799871/bay-curious-coyotes

[Clarification to the audio: Coyote numbers ‘on the family claimed territories I have been observing’ have remained stable over the past 13 years. This qualification was cut from the audio (at about 6:17), but it’s in the text version. Please know that since 2007, there indeed has been a gradual increase (an incremental increase, not a recent sudden explosion) in their numbers as they repopulated the area they had been purged from, beginning in 2002.]

Inside The Lives of Urban Coyotes

Most of my talks have been for closed groups, but on October 18th I’ve been invited to give an open-to-the-public talk for the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame. You are welcome to come!

Update 10/27:   I was asked to make a video of the presentation for the group of people who wanted to attend my talk but were unable to, which I have done.  It’s not the same as the talk, obviously, and may feel a little flat without a live person there to make it come alive, but I hope it is informative nonetheless [see below].

My talk which featured my own observations, slides and videos, was really well received. I had an enthusiastic,  interested and complimentary audience of about 80 people, with some people sitting against the walls or standing. There were lots of questions and people wanted to know if I might be able to speak at their city councils and other venues.

The talk, as the flyer stated, emphasized coyote family life, but I spent a good deal of time on people, pets and concerns. It was about an hour long.

Here are a few photos of the event.  I want to thank Kylynn of the Peninsula HS/SPCA, and I want to thank my engaged audience. The talk was a super pleasure because of you all.

(Some topics we covered: family life, most coyote communication which is constant is silent, individuality, too much human love, incidents are rare, food is never unlimited which is the reason behind territoriality, issues with pets).

 

The Need for Wildness, by Tara Lohan

Press the above image or this link to read on: https://therevelator.org/coyotes-san-francisco/

The Woman Who Follows Urban Coyotes, by Vivian Ho for The Guardian

Press the above image to keep reading in The Guardian, or press HERE.

Sacramento Bee Writes A Profile About Me


Continue reading here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article161489933.html

The Coyote Whisperer, by Shelby Carpenter with Photos by Helena Price

2016-03-22

click on photo to be taken to magazine article

I’m honored to be the subject of an article by Shelby Carpenter with photos by Helena Price!

“It’s a cool, breezy evening at a seaside park in San Francisco, and Janet Kessler is on the lookout. We sit quietly among pinecones and dead leaves, staring out over the green space before us. With a thin frame and a mass of brown-gray hair pulled back in a scrunchie, Kessler cuts an almost leonine profile. She’s ready to spring into action at any moment. We wait patiently for one of the more unlikely residents of San Francisco to pay a visit: the coyote.

As we wait and watch, Kessler and I talk about how she has made a name for herself doing just this—tracking urban coyotes in the wilds of San Francisco’s parks. With ample urban green space, the city, it turns out, is the perfect habitat for coyotes. There’s prey, space to build dens, and, most important, a much lower chance of getting shot here than on ranchland. In 2014 alone, the Department of Agriculture killed more than 60,000 coyotes; no such effort to remove coyotes by lethal force exists in San Francisco.

So seven days a week, usually at dawn and dusk, Kessler goes out to watch them. She first became fascinated with the creatures after having a chance encounter . . .” Click here to read on in the March/April issue of Pacific Standard Magazine!

photo by Helena Price

photo by Helena Price

 

Leath Tonino Captures My Joy and Viewpoint In Watching Urban Coyotes, in High Country News

2015-05-25

Click on the photo for a readable version of the article. Also notice that although only one photo displays at any one time at the top of the linked page, you can scroll through all seven of them by pressing the numbers below the photo. Leath Tonino, you’ll all note and agree, is a fantastic writer and has captured the spirit of my adventure perfectly!

I spent the twilight hours in a park with Leath where he interviewed me for this article as we watched a coyote, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. He sent me another very creative article of his which is about adventure in exploring the urban wild right at your doorstep without driving hundreds of miles. Kudos to Leath! https://www.hcn.org/issues/47.6/raccoonboys-guide-to-urban-wilds

And, the really good photo of me was taken by Terray Sylvester, with whom I spent another thoroughly enjoyable park outing.

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 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.

[Addendum: It turns out that coyotes were extremely sparse in Marin in and around 2002 when these coyotes suddenly appeared in San Francisco. There was no reason whatsoever for them to disperse over the Golden Gate Bridge, I’m told]

Some of the San Francisco Coyotes I’ve Known

Coyotes Are Thriving In San Francisco

Interview by Courtney Quirin

From the Field

Connecting with: Janet Kessler, “Coyote Lady”
Interview by Courtney Quirin
 

“Long-time San Francisco resident, Janet Kessler has become a pioneer in the photo documentation of the lives of urban coyotes, capturing the intimate lives of that city’s coyotes for six years”.

If you would like to read more about what I do, read Courtney’s interview in the October 25th issue of  Bay Nature Connections. Thank you Courtney for a really nice interview!

Monkeys, by Courtney Quirin

Courtney recently moved to San Francisco where she is pursuing her talents as an artist and writer.

She comes to the city after studying and traveling in Ireland, New Zealand and Ethiopia — this last where she studied the impact of baboons on local farmers.

She is also an All American runner!

Please visit her website at: Courtney Illustrates.

 

Emma Marris, The Rambunctious Garden

Everyone should know about the large number of tree removals and massive defoliation happening in some of our major San Francisco parks, including McLaren Park, Mount Davidson, Glen Canyon among others. Do we want this massive intervention, intended to return these parks to dune grasses and scrubland, or do we want a different intervention based on a resiliency paradigm which preserves the wildlife habitat that has evolved over the last 150 years and supports most of our wildlife. Ecologists have discovered that the “go back to dates” chosen by “restorationists” are really only moments between two human altered landscapes. They are entirely arbitrary.

“Learn to love the inevitable changes, is really how I feel”, says Emma Marris. “If the choice is to fight for a [pristine past environment] and lose, or to work with nature as it changes and adapts to what we humans have done to planet Earth, respecting its dynamism and resilience as it shifts to new states, I vote for the latter.” And so do most park visitors in San Francisco.

In addition, Emma states that when anything is too biodiverse — one of everything — it is more like a zoo than nature. We need to leave areas alone and let them sort themselves out. Practitioners (those doing “restorations”) really need to read her book: The Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.”

Squeals and Grooming

We heard the sirens — not so loud and long as usual — but we  thought there might be the possibility for a concert, so we waited. We were right! The sirens part was very short — I don’t think I caught any of it on the tape, but the coyotes continued their serenade well after the sirens had passed. And, the show didn’t end there. When they were finished with their yips, squeals and barks, one of them approached the other and began grooming — in this case, taking off ticks one be one — the same as I have shown before.

This particular video is different from my others. The entire first half of it was blurry — the camera mechanism for automatic focus just couldn’t seem to find itself — it kept zooming in and out without ever focusing, so all I had was one big blur for that section of the video. I was so disappointed that I might not be able to use the video clip. A friend of mine offered to help, and look what he came up with!! I think it’s fabulous, really superb!! And you get to hear the vocalizations throughout.

Rainy Dawn — in Sepia

It was wet, wet, wet outside, so, of course, when I came across coyotes making their rounds, they, too, were wet, wet, wet. These semi-silhouette photos were taken under very bad early and gloomy light conditions. My ISO must have been about 6400. Nevertheless, the individual fur strands stood out sharply against the background sky and I thought their forms on the rocks were absolutely beautiful. Under those lighting conditions, there really was no “color” in the photos, so I played with some “enhancement” possibilities and decided that sepia showed these forms off to advantage.

Rock formations and outcroppings exist in a great many of our Bay Area parks: these are mostly chert, but there are also a few serpentine formations.

Dad Relaxed, Sort of – by Charles Wood

Dad Where

Here in LA county Dad relaxed in late Tuesday’s sun. I took a few pictures of the road and of Dad. My sense of how things along the road should look, allowed me, with the naked eye, to spot him from 1100 feet away. I was about half way to him on the river bank.

I couldn’t tell which coyote it was. Its only with a photograph that I can identify a coyote by magnifying it in my camera’s display. Even from that distance, the pictures were of a Dad looking right at the camera.

Dad Relaxed

I wasn’t able to spot Dad until I was within 1100 feet. Dad would have spotted me a lot farther away than that. There’s nothing to obstruct his view of me, my dog, and my tripod coming over the bridge and down the river bank. Still, Tuesday, he wasn’t particularly concerned with us. Other days, he just gets mad.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

San Francisco Forest Alliance: Preserving Our Urban Forests & Wildlife Habitat

I hope everyone is as concerned about our wildlife habitat as I am. Please check out, and join, the new San Francisco Forest Alliance at SFForest.Net. Their goal is to preserve the forests, trees and thickets, all of which serve as wildlife animal habitat. Slated for removal in the new Natural Areas Program, NAP, plan are 18,000 trees, most of them mature and majestic specimens. They provide ecological benefits and species habitat which are still little understood by NAP. Here is the background:

Trees, forests, and dense thickets of underbrush — thickets which are impenetrable to dogs and humans — serve as wildlife habitat: they offer physical protection and food to wild animals. Almost all trees in San Francisco are non-native — there were only four native species of trees in the area when the Europeans arrived. Non-native berries such as Himalayan blackberry, cotoneaster, pyracantha, holly and others serve as food sources for birds and furry creatures. These are being ripped out in our parks for the shortsighted intention of  “restoring” the San Francisco area to what it might have been like in 1776 — mostly sand-dune grasses and understory species with little if any habitat value.

But the environment has totally changed since that time. The biggest change which altered the landscape forever has been the growth of a dense human population. This impacted the environment tremendously.  But when humans came, they also planted trees and shrubbery to help them deal with the harsh environment — mostly to hold in the loose sands which blew around everywhere, and as wind barriers. The plantings did more than this, they added greenery and beauty to the area. And they created a wildlife habitat which is now home to almost all of our wildlife. Because of these and other changes, even the original soil structure along with the microorganisms that were part of the sand dune ecosystem have been altered forever.

The new plantings grew and evolved. Ours, now, is a totally balanced ecosystem that has evolved over the last 250 years, and it is a healthy ecosystem. An indicator of the health of an ecosystem is it’s top predator. There are coyotes in San Francisco — our ecosystem is very healthy.  Now, along with our dense human population, we have paved roads, lots of automobiles, plenty of pollution  — we need our trees to combat the environmental effects of our dense population and the way we live.  San Francisco has the second smallest tree canopy of any dense urban center in the United States. Our urban forests are essential in terms of carbon sequestration and water sequestration — they help the environment and combat the effects of global warming. Every single tree counts. Yet more of our healthy, hard working naturalized trees are being ripped out and replaced with grasses and shrubs that are not sustainable in the present environment, all in the name of a clearly misguided environmentalism and false science.

Sustainability is something we all aspire to. However, in the time since the Native Plant program began in San Francisco, we have discovered that, in fact, native plants are not very self-sustainable. These native plants require a vast number of volunteer work hours to maintain them. In addition, our Recreation and Park Department is, literally, splashing poisonous pesticides on our parks’ non-native species regularly in order to accomplish their nativist goals. We have tried fighting this policy, but the use of poisons in the Park Department’s so-called “natural areas program”/NAP has actually increased 265% in one year alone, from 2009 to 2010. They are using these pesticides in parks where children play, where there is wildlife, where we walk our pets, and where there is a creek — the manufacturer of these chemicals warn strongly against this. The “natural areas program” is clearly not “natural” at all.

Critics of NAP question not only the program’s expenditures in budget-tight times but also the native plant advocates’ rhetoric, ”  ‘Restoration ecology’ is a euphemism for a kind of gardening informed by an almost cultish veneration of the ‘native’ and abhorrence of the naturalized, which is commonly characterized as ‘invasive,’ ” Arthur Shapiro, a distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, wrote city planning officials last October. (Sacramento Bee, 1/16/12). People are finally waking up to what is occuring in their parks — and they are desperately alarmed.

Images are worth a thousand words:

Professor Arthur Shapiro Comments on the Environmental Impact Report of the Natural Areas Program in San Francisco

Mission Blue Butterfly from Wikimedia Commons

These comments to the Environmental Impact Report of the Natural Areas Program in San Francisco by Professor Arthur M. Shapiro, are posted with his permission, and re-posted from two other websites: Death of a Million Trees, and Save Mount Sutro Forest. These two websites are loaded with pertinent information on this subject. Shapiro is Distinguished Professor of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis and a renowned expert on the butterflies of California.  Please be aware of his credentials as you read this.  Hopefully, these comments will inspire you to write your own comment by the deadline, which has been extended to October 31, 2011.  Details about how to submit your comment are available from the Death of a Million Trees website here. I am republishing this because of my concern for existing animal habitat which is being replaced in our so-called “natural areas” with native grasses which have no habitat value at all for the wildlife existing in our parks.

========================

October 6, 2011
Mr. Bill Wycko:
San Francisco Planning Department
Re: DRAFT EIR, NATURAL AREAS PROGRAM

Dear Mr. Wycko:

Consistent with the policy of the University of California, I wish to state at the outset that the opinions stated in this letter are my own and should not be construed as being those of the Regents, the University of California, or any administrative entity thereof. My affiliation is presented for purposes of identification only. However, my academic qualifications are relevant to what I am about to say. I am a professional ecologist (B.A. University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D. Cornell University) and have been on the faculty of U.C. Davis since 1971, where I have taught General Ecology, Evolutionary Ecology, Community Ecology, Philosophy of Biology, Biogeography, Tropical Ecology, Paleoecology, Global Change, Chemical Ecology, and Principles of Systematics. I have trained some 15 Ph.D.s, many of whom are now tenured faculty at institutions including the University of Massachusetts, University of Tennessee, University of Nevada-Reno, Texas State University, and Long Beach State University, and some of whom are now in government agencies or in private consulting or industry. I am an or the author of some 350 scientific publications and reviews. The point is that I do have the bona fides to say what I am about to say.

At a time when public funds are exceedingly scarce and strict prioritization is mandatory, I am frankly appalled that San Francisco is considering major expenditures directed toward so-called “restoration ecology.” “Restoration ecology” is a euphemism for a kind of gardening informed by an almost cultish veneration of the “native” and abhorrence of the naturalized, which is commonly characterized as “invasive.” Let me make this clear: neither “restoration” nor conservation can be mandated by science—only informed by it. The decision of what actions to take may be motivated by many things, including politics, esthetics, economics and even religion, but it cannot be science-driven.

In the case of “restoration ecology,” the goal is the creation of a simulacrum of what is believed to have been present at some (essentially arbitrary) point in the past. I say a simulacrum, because almost always there are no studies of what was actually there from a functional standpoint; usually there are no studies at all beyond the merely (and superficially) descriptive. Whatever the reason for desiring to create such a simulacrum, it must be recognized that it is just as much a garden as any home rock garden and will almost never be capable of being self-sustaining without constant maintenance; it is not going to be a “natural,” self-regulating ecosystem. The reason for that is that the ground rules today are not those that obtained when the prototype is thought to have existed. The context has changed; the climate has changed; the pool of potential colonizing species has changed, often drastically. Attempts to “restore” prairie in the upper Midwest in the face of European Blackthorn invasion have proven Sisyphean. And they are the norm, not the exception.

The creation of small, easily managed, and educational simulacra of presumed pre-European vegetation on San Francisco public lands is a thoroughly worthwhile and, to me, desirable project. Wholesale habitat conversion is not.

A significant reaction against the excesses of the “native plant movement” is setting up within the profession of ecology, and there has been a recent spate of articles arguing that hostility to “invasives” has gone too far—that many exotic species are providing valuable ecological services and that, as in cases I have studied and published on, in the altered context of our so-called “Anthropocene Epoch” such services are not merely valuable but essential. This is a letter, not a monograph, but I would be glad to expand on this point if asked to do so.

I am an evolutionary ecologist, housed in a Department of Evolution and Ecology. The two should be joined at the proverbial hip. Existing ecological communities are freeze-frames from a very long movie. They have not existed for eternity, and many have existed only a few thousand years. There is nothing intrinsically sacred about interspecific associations. Ecological change is the norm, not the exception. Species and communities come and go. The ideology (or is it faith?) that informs “restoration ecology” basically seeks to deny evolution and prohibit change. But change will happen in any case, and it is foolish to squander scarce resources in pursuit of what are ideological, not scientific, goals with no practical benefit to anyone and only psychological “benefits” to their adherents.

If that were the only argument, perhaps it could be rebutted effectively. But the proposed wholesale habitat conversion advocated here does serious harm, both locally (in terms of community enjoyment of public resources) and globally (in terms of carbon balance-urban forests sequester lots of carbon; artificial grasslands do not). At both levels, wholesale tree removal, except for reasons of public safety, is sheer folly. Aging, decrepit, unstable Monterey Pines and Monterey Cypresses are unquestionably a potential hazard. Removing them for that reason is a very different matter from removing them to actualize someone’s dream of a pristine San Francisco (that probably never existed).

Sociologists and social psychologists talk about the “idealization of the underclass,” the “noble savage” concept, and other terms referring to the guilt-driven self-hatred that infects many members of society. Feeling the moral onus of consumption and luxury, people idolize that which they conceive as pure and untainted. That may be a helpful personal catharsis. It is not a basis for public policy.

Many years ago I co-hosted John Harper, a distinguished British plant ecologist, on his visit to Davis. We took him on a field trip up I-80. On the way up several students began apologizing for the extent to which the Valley and foothill landscapes were dominated by naturalized exotic weeds, mainly Mediterranean annual grasses. Finally Harper couldn’t take it any more. “Why do you insist on treating this as a calamity, rather than a vast evolutionary opportunity?” he asked. Those of us who know the detailed history of vegetation for the past few million years—particularly since the end of Pleistocene glaciation—understand this. “Restoration ecology” is plowing the sea.

Get real.

Sincerely,
Arthur M. Shapiro
Distinguished Professor of Evolution and Ecology

Previous Older Entries