Animal experts: Stay calm around coyotes

The handful of coyotes that call the Presidio home are still happy, healthy and wild for one main reason: They still fear humans. Experts hope that will be the case for the timid animals now living in Golden Gate Park and Bernal Heights.

There has been a flurry of coyote sightings in The City in the last few days, and officials are hoping to quickly educate the public before a rare opportunity turns sour. Experts say it’s possible for coyotes and humans to coexist, as the animals pose no threat to humans who leave them alone.

“It’s our job as inhabitants of this city — and it’s appropriate that our city is named after a patron saint of animals — to respect them,” said Damien Raffa, education and volunteer program manager for the Presidio Trust. “To have wildlife on the stature of a coyote in The City is an opportunity to revive those connections.”

Raffa, who has kept a log of coyote sightings in the Presidio for six years, said the national park could sustain two small groups of coyotes. He said up to three coyotes have been spotted together at one time. The theory is that the animals came over the Golden Gate Bridge, which Raffa said has become somewhat of a wildlife corridor.

San Francisco Animal Care and Control Captain Vicky Guldbech said there are possibly four or five coyotes living in Golden Gate Park and one or two in Bernal Heights. People began calling in sightings about six months ago, she said, but the calls have increased over the last two days.

Officials are not sure where the new coyotes came from; Raffa said they could have traveled from the Peninsula, where there are large amounts of open space.

Not wanting to attract attention to the animals, Guldbech would not say what area of the park the coyotes have been seen in. She said the animals are shy and like to keep to themselves, eating smaller rodents, such as gophers, as well as fruit.

“If you’re walking down the street and you see one, just mind your own business — the same thing you do with a raccoon,” Guldbech said.

Experts also advise people to keep outside trash bins secure and to bring pet-food bowls inside at night. People can also bang pots and pans to scare the coyotes away, they said.

arocha@examiner.com

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