Coyotes continue to scare kids in SF’s Golden Gate Park

Two Bay Area Moms were standing around a picnic blanket with their toddlers on a lawn at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park on the morning of June 18 when a coyote emerged from behind trees.

The cunning animal charged the children – ages 1.5 and 2.5 – who were playing with a ball about 8 feet from their mother.

The two-and-a-half-year-old girl ran towards her mother screaming, while the younger froze as the coyote approached.

“This coyote was going for my baby,” Katlin Zimmer said. “I thought it would be fine for her face. My friend told me it would be fine for her neck. By the time I noticed this was happening, we were probably in a 6 foot triangle, me, the baby and the coyote. My goal was to dive into the football, catch the attack and push the coyote back. “

Zimmer said she quickly deduced that the coyote was moving too fast for her to stop an attack. She was concerned that the coyote would reach her child before she could, but as she dived she made eye contact with the animal.

“It made her hesitate for a moment and it allowed me to put her back together,” said Zimmer, who noted that she and her child practically brushed the animal’s fur as they fled.

Later that afternoon a coyote struck again in the garden. San Francisco mother Laila O’Boyle was taking the air with her three children to another grassy expanse of the garden, the Great Meadow, when she said a coyote approached them around 4 p.m. O’Boyle said the animal’s behavior was not aggressive. , but he was unusually curious and comfortable with humans.

The animal first wandered a few feet from its 15-month-old twin boy who stood behind to hear. A nearby picnic group started screaming and alerted her to the presence of the coyote. As she frantically grabbed her son, the coyote approached her 15-month-old twin daughter sitting in the grass.

“It’s a little baby sitting on the grass and it was about a foot away from her, and then he really got closer to her,” she said. “I went to get her. He stayed in the area for a while. People were chasing him. He only left when people slammed the lids on the trash cans.”

Coniferous lawn in the western part of the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park.

Patricia Chang / SFGATE Special

The women reported the incidents to the city, and San Francisco Animal Care and Control told SFGATE it was reviewing reports with wildlife experts from the Department of Recreation and Parks and the California Department of Fisheries and Conservation. wildlife.

Deb Campbell, spokesperson for Animal Care and Control, said it was probably the same animal that has been fed regularly for years and that has become comfortable with humans acted in both incidents on June 18 , but this has not been officially confirmed.

“Feeding makes coyotes lose their natural fear of humans,” Campbell said. “They get used to looking for people for easy handouts – that’s not a good thing. That’s why feeding wildlife is illegal, and it puts both animals and humans at risk … coyotes and animals really get used to people. “

This isn’t the first time that a coyote has come terribly close to the children of Golden Gate Park. In October, a grandmother told SFGATE that a coyote with its mouth open and teeth bared charged towards her 2-year-old grandson.

The animal’s mouth was inches from its grandson, Jamie Carlson said, when she walked in and grabbed him, screaming as loud as she could to scare him.

“The animal didn’t frighten but instead started walking towards a baby sitting nearby with its mother,” said the native and San Francisco resident.

Could it also be the same animal?

“It could be the same animal,” Campbell said. “We have experts studying this. Often times, assertive behavior is mistaken for aggression. Coyotes can bark teeth, follow dogs on walks, arch their backs, pinch a dog’s heels – all of these things. to escort the dog away from its den. It looks scary, but would not be considered stalking, hunting or attacking. We are looking closely at recent reports to see how they differ from other reports. We are concerned. “

SF resident Jamie Carlson, left, holds her grandson in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on October 13, 2020, after the coyote pictured right almost bit the child.  These images are screenshots taken from a viewer video.

SF resident Jamie Carlson, left, holds her grandson in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on October 13, 2020, after the coyote pictured right almost bit the child. These images are screenshots taken from a viewer video.


Coyote sightings are common in San Francisco, where animals dot the cityscape, building dens and raising young in pockets of vegetation tucked away in neighborhoods. Groups in the neighboring neighborhood are filled with stories of coyotes killing cats, and Instagram is inundated with images of coyotes roaming the streets of SF. While the animals are nocturnal, photos often show them in broad daylight.

With all the talk and photos of coyote activity, it may seem like the animals have suddenly descended on San Francisco in recent years. But coyotes are actually native to California and repopulate an area where they lived in abundance until the mid-1900s.

Police officers killed coyotes that crossed the Golden Gate Bridge out of town for many years, and when this practice stopped, coyotes began building dens around town in the early 2000s. Nobody knows exactly. how many coyotes live in the city, but Amy Corso, field services supervisor for San Francisco Animal Care and Control, told SFGATE for a previous story that the number is likely under 100.

“There’s no way to find out without a follow-up study,” Campbell said. “I think it’s safe to say dozens. There has been an increase in sightings over the past four or five years. We could have more sightings because we made it easier for people to report them by line.”

Coyotes have lived in Golden Gate Park for years, and in May, a litter of seven coyote puppies was spotted in the Botanical Garden. The Parks and Recreation Department has closed some park trails and posted signs warning of an “active coyote hideout area.”

Coyotes can become aggressive during calving and rearing from April through fall, and Campbell said they most often exhibit this behavior towards dogs. The coyotes will follow the dogs to escort them out of areas near their dens.

“Coyotes can follow people with dogs, but they don’t follow people,” Cambell said. “We don’t know what the coyote was thinking. It was probably more food related, but then it’s up to the experts to look into that behavior. We take this very seriously. We have experts that we have consulted. “

Coyote sighting in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in broad daylight, October 2020.

Coyote sighting in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in broad daylight, October 2020.

Zaki Lisha

Signs warning people of coyotes in San Francisco are placed in city parks, and the Parks and Recreation Department that manages the grounds of the Botanical Garden has posted signs warning of coyote activity at the entrances to the parks. gardens, along some paths and to the evergreen lawn, according to officials.

“We have closed many areas due to calving activities, and the garden visitor experience staff are warning visitors to increased coyote activity,” said Tamara Barak Aparton, spokesperson. of Recreation and Parks.

Monique Pflager, the mother of the toddler who ran to her when the coyote approached the two children and their mothers on June 18, said she would like the park to sound the alarm louder.

Pflager has years of experience with coyotes, working as a wildlife rehabilitator with Project Coyote in the Marin Headlands. In her job, she helped make sure coyotes didn’t bite tourists and traveled local roads to identify sick animals. The coyote she observed nearly two weeks ago was abnormal, and she said it’s unclear whether he was protecting a puppy den or was suffering from an illness or acting strangely due to another problem.

“It was certainly not normal coyote behavior, and the fact that it happened multiple times in the same day is not normal,” Pflager said. “I have never seen such a healthy coyote that wants to prey on healthy children.”

Pflager informed botanical garden staff of the incident, and she said she hopes they will do more to alert the public.

“I’m very upset about it, clearly,” Pflager said. “I love coyotes and I love wildlife. If anything happened to a child, I would be even more upset if I didn’t say anything.… My qualm is that the staff at the botanical garden needed a better deal. proactive plan to counter this. We can’t stop the coyotes, but we can prevent parents from having their children in the exact same place where coyotes attack their children. I know they don’t want to scare people, but they need to be more transparent.

Zimmer added that the current signs in the park alerting visitors to coyote sightings are like white noise. “These are not sightings,” she said. “It’s aggressive behavior towards children. I love the botanical garden, but I’m afraid they’ll take it seriously… I feel like they won’t do anything until the coyote has it. success.”

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