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City Says Coyotes Are Here to Stay; Some Citizens Howl

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Urban critter population grows in Ingleside, Balboa Terrace, and Stern Grove

Coyotes have been popping up in the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, and Glen Canyon for years, but now they’re starting to creep into more populated areas like Ingleside Terrace and Balboa Terrace.

Many neighbors are barking mad about it, but at today’s Board of Supervisors committee meeting officials said there are limits to what they can do.

To some, the skulking canidae are actually pretty cute, and we could call them the ultimate force of anti-gentrification. But just last week coyotes killed a dog in Balboa Terrace. Two other dogs were attacked (but not killed) in Stern Grove earlier this year.

Although the Humane Society says there has only been one recorded instance of a coyote killing a human being in the United States, close encounters still scare the bejeezus out of some people.

"The coyotes in Ingleside have become far too comfortable," says Virginia Donohue, executive director of San Francisco Animal Care & Control. But Dononhue also told the committee ACC can’t usually remove the critters by force. It’s basically impossible to get a permit to catch and release them elsewhere because "frankly, no other county wants more coyotes either."

And killing them not only provokes anger from local animal lovers, it doesn’t do much in the long run. Once an urban coyote is dead, new ones simply migrate into its now-available domain. "As one Chicago wildlife official told us, ‘When you kill a coyote, two come to the funeral,'" Donohue explains.

The city is exploring non-lethal tools to make coyotes scared of approaching humans, including paintballs, flashing lights, and something called a "water scarecrow" that spritzes the creatures when they wander out of their domain.

Jon Young of the Presidio Trust notes that there are at least four coyotes living in the Presidio and that, strictly speaking, coyotes were here first, and what we’re seeing is simply a "recolonization" after rough and rowdy 19th century San Franciscans ran them out with firearms a century ago.

These new coyotes came in around the beginning of the 21st century via the same route many humans take: They crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.

Young assured the committee that there's a limit on local populations, since dominant coyotes will run the others out of town once competition for resources becomes too intense.

That wasn’t good enough for some. Peggy Lo, whose dog was killed by coyotes in Stern Grove last year, said that she wasn’t buying the live and let live attitude. "We pay high taxes to live here. The coyotes aren’t paying taxes. They’re not voting. It’s not right to keep pushing the problem away and letting them populate."

District 7’s Supervisor Norman Yee called the meeting of the Audits and Oversights committee because his southwestern district is full of prime urban coyote territory. At meeting’s end the supervisors called for tracking and census efforts to figure out exactly how many coyote constituents they were dealing with before proposing solutions.