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Coyote Sightings Prompt Trail Closures

Reports of coyotes following people on Golden Gate Park trails elicits a reminder from a San Mateo County park ranger about coyotes on Sawyer Camp Trail in Crystal Springs Park.

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.             

It was 15 years ago that San Mateo County Department of Parks' rangers, managing Sawyer Camp Trail in Crystal Springs Park, had to deal with a coyote harassing hikers.

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

• Yelling

• 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

Joe Devlin April 12, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Coyotes frequently follow my dog and I late at night when we take walks late at night on the bluffs in Moss Beach. You don't see them unless you suddenly shine a flashlight their way. Have to admit seeing several pairs of eyes shining back at you from 100 foot away can be startling. I keep the dog on a leash at night and have never seen them come any closer than that.
Rob Chapman April 12, 2012 at 04:28 AM
've been hiking/walking in Sweeney Ridge for years. I also live just down the street from the trailhead. Not only do I see them on the trail, but on the street & in my backyard. I've come face to face with them many times. Never had any problems. They look at me for a second and then run away. They're more scared of people than we are of them.
Elena Torello November 25, 2012 at 05:07 AM
I was walking my 2 dogs in mussel rock trail today (Pacifica) and a band of 4 coyotes grabbed and killed my smaller dog (20#) When I yelled and threw rocks at them they approached my other dog (60#) and I in an agressive manner, but eventually they ran off.

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