Westside Observer Publishes “Circling The Wagons Around Our Coyotes”

The Westside Observer has published a more concise version (1/3 the length) of the same article which I published here on Coyote Yipps on August 15th. If you didn’t want to read that because it might have been too long, this version is much shorter.


To read on, press here: http://www.westsideobserver.com/news/coyotes.html#sep16

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


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


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 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

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.

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