City’s coyote situation getting ugly

With a coyote population that has doubled in San Francisco over the past year, city animal officials are investigating new safety measures as the wild canines enter their breeding season — particularly since two of the animals were slain last summer because of aggressive behavior.

At the time of the two coyote killings — shot by state animal officials after numerous attacks on domesticated dogs — there were approximately six members of the species in San Francisco, according to Animal Care and Control Captain Vicky Guldbech. That number has now risen to at least 12, with reports of coyotes living in Christopher Park, Bernal Heights, Golden Gate Park and Twin Peaks, Guldbech said.

Because the species is new to The City (Guldbech said that prior to last summer there were only a smattering of coyote sightings in San Francisco) the Animal Welfare and Control Commission will hold a discussion Thursday to investigate safety situations for city residents who might encounter any of the breeding canines.

“With breeding comes behavioral changes, so we’re asking people to become a little more guarded, to walk swiftly by any coyotes they might see, and of course, not to feed any of them,” said Guldbech. “We believe the aggressive behavior of the two coyotes last year stemmed from public feeding, but we just don’t know much about them. We’re still learning their basic behavioral patterns.”

According to the California Department of Fish and Game Web site, coyotes usually begin the breeding process in February and March, with pups typically born 60 days after conception. During a pup’s early months, when their growth is dramatic and need for nutrition is paramount, coyote mothers are much more aggressive in their food-gathering, lending to more conflicts between humans and the animals.

“Coyotes are usually real secretive about where their dens are, and in most cases they run off when approached by humans,” said Harry Morse of the California Department of Fish and Game. “There are some instances, however, when they display acts of protection to keep their young out of harm’s way.”

wreisman@examiner.com

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