A recent increase in the number of coyote sightings in part of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park has prompted authorities to close certain trails, animal control officials said.
Some trails have been closed in the area of John F. Kennedy Drive between Middle Lake and North Lake, near the bison paddock, Animal Care and Control Lt. Le-Ellis Brown said today.
Brown said animal control officials recommended that the city's Recreation and Park Department shut down the trails after receiving reports of coyotes following people walking dogs, and approaching off-leash dogs.
Coyotes have also been spotted in .
A coyote approached a jogger on the Sawyer Camp Trail and bit her on the backside in 1998. According to a 2004 report “Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem” by Robert M. Timm of the Hopland Research & Extension Center, University of California, Hopland, there was another incident that same year, where a coyote attacked a woman by grabbing her pant leg, let go and attempted to attack again.
“It’s tough to say why a coyote would harass people, especially on trails that are heavily populated like the ones in Golden Gate Park as well as Sawyer Camp Trail, which serves over 325,000 visitors annually and is sandwiched between a California State Fish and Game refuge and watershed handled by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where the food source is very abundant,” said Mario Nastari, San Mateo County Parks Park Ranger III, supervisor for the Sawyer Camp Trail.
Since the coyote attacks in 1998, there has been coyote sightings off the Sawyer Camp Trail, “but nothing abnormal or that would be considered a wildlife problem,” said Nastari. “Coyotes really don’t like coming close to people and have so much food off this trail, the two rarely collide.”
Still, coyotes are scavengers, and “they’ve been known to follow people some 50 to 100 feet, but even though Crystal Springs Park is pretty populated with coyotes, we haven’t had any problems in years,” said Nastari.
There are many reasons why a coyote would attack, he adds, but it's difficult to know for sure.
“It could be that they’ve had a taste of something that’s not part of their normal food source and once they get a taste of that, it’s hard to bring them back to their own,” said Nastari. "It could also be that the coyote was acting abnormal because it was sick, injured, starving or just desperate.”
In the case of Golden Gate Park, animal control officials believe a mated pair of coyotes is protecting their den and newborn pups somewhere in the area.
Brown said the Golden Gate Park trails are expected to remain closed until the end of pupping season in early August, but could reopen earlier.
In the meantime, Brown said, "we're encouraging the public to keep their dogs on leash, and asking people to stay out of the area if they can."
Animal Care and Control officials are reminding the public that it is illegal to feed coyotes or to harass them. Anyone with an animal emergency is asked to call the agency at (415) 554-9400.
For an animal emergency in Crystal Springs Park, call San Mateo County Parks at (650) 589-4294 or (650) 363-4020.
If you see a coyote that is following you, Mario Nastari, San Mateo County Parks Park Ranger III, recommends:
• Standing tall
• Opening your jacket to look bigger
• Waving your arms
• Putting young children on your shoulders
• DO NOT run or bend over
• Report the animal emergency to San Mateo County Parks
— Bay City News with additional reporting by