Coyotes have returned to The San Francisco Bay Area after many years of absence. The contradiction of “urban” and “wild” ups the excitement. Rarely will you see one, but what a thrill when you do!!

        We’ve progressed in our thinking to where we are willing to fit in with nature instead of constantly trying to dominate and control it. Nature’s balances actually work for us. For instance, coyotes keep our rats in check.

        But also, beyond just the contact with this higher wildlife form right here in our civilized urban midst, the presence of our coyotes is a reminder to all of us of a very exciting, larger natural existence, beyond ourselves -- beyond our daily living, eating, working, and playing lives. We need to be less self-centered and to appreciate what does not necessarily help or hurt our own survival.

        We can all help maintain what has come to us, as a fabulous gift, by spreading the right attitude on how to keep our coyotes wild, happy, safe and free. This is what they need and want. Simple guidelines all stem from simply respecting them, their space and their needs. A little give, on our part, can go a long way to maintain our current stable coexistence with them. We all can become stewards for their protection by keeping this in mind.

1- Please don’t feed them -- taming their wildness hurts us all. Coyotes don’t have to see you putting food out for them to know it comes from humans; they can smell this and will associate the two. This results in them becoming bolder about approaching more populated areas where they might find more human-scented food, even though they are no tamer than before -- they are just closer.

2- Please don’t let your dog chase coyotes -- leash your dog in a coyote area -- coyotes must protect themselves and will, as will most animals who are threatened. Most of the time coyotes will flee, but sometimes they will stand up for themselves.

If you just see a coyote at a distance, it is best to move away from the coyote with your leashed dog, maybe even leaving the area. If the coyote is in obvious distress and barking, rather than getting upset about it, think about the logical possibilities: maybe you startled him; maybe there are pups around; maybe he’s communicating with a buddy. Yes, best to give the coyote his space.

However, if your dog got away from you and gave chase, or surprised a coyote around a bush, you need to be aware of how the coyote will react. The behaviors coyotes use to move a dog away from themselves in self-protection, once they have been chased, are a short charge-and-retreat sequence, a barking episode, and/or ultimately a nipping at the haunches of a dog to move them on, much in the same way that a cattle-dog accomplishes its herding. Sometimes two coyotes will work as a team, and at this point a dog will almost always feel overwhelmed.

In this case you need to yell and flail your arms, and maybe throw small stones to scare -- the coyote is definitely afraid of humans. At the first opportunity grab your pet, leash it and head away to let things calm down. Even under these circumstances the coyote may follow you out of the park -- “escorting” you to make sure that you leave the park and that you leave her alone.

3- IF a coyote should follow you, and they do sometimes either because they are as curious about you as you are about them, or your dog might be seen as a threat  and the coyote is making sure it leaves the park, leave the area for a while. If the coyote gets too close to you for your own comfort (this is rare), you could throw small stones -- not to hurt, but to dissuade. Making a racket of noise is also recommended.

4- Questions can be directed towards our Animal Care & Control Folks at 554-6364. They are here to help you and to help the animals in our city. But remember, it is important that we all accept them as legitimate inhabitants of our city, and become their guardians by learning their ways and giving them a little bit of space when they ask for it.

Keep Our Coyotes Safe and Wild, Please!