Coyotes in the Presidio

February 2018 Update

Since the Presidio Trust coyote monitoring program began in 2016, we have tagged and collared ten coyote individuals. Nine of those animals were pups born in two different years/litters. Six of those nine pups have since dispersed from the Presidio, and we have been able to track their journeys as they try to find their own territory elsewhere (see example Dispersal Map below). Many of these animals have not survived the harsh realities of urban traffic.

Tagged Coyotes

Currently, there are five identifiable coyote individuals in the Presidio, including an alpha pair (see images with color coding). A sixth unidentified animal has recently been observed and shared with us through the iNaturalist app. We believe that this animal is temporarily passing through the Presidio and will ultimately be driven out by the alpha pair.

Note, the black bars represent the collars that have reflective patterns that each tagged animal wears. This, in addition to the colored ear tags, is a way to identify the animal. The untagged animal is the alpha male. Note the torn right ear, a unique marking used to identify him.

In 2018, we expect to:

  • Continue to track the movement of collared animals using GPS in order to improve our coyote management strategies
  • Identify this year’s den site before pups are born so we can use signage and other methods to alert Presidio visitors, including visitors walking with dogs
  • Improve the way we monitor the den site
  • Collar and ear tag animals born in spring 2018
  • Begin analyzing genetic samples collected

See the “Coyote Monitoring Program” section below for more detailed results of our research to date.

Background: About Coyotes in the Presidio

Coyote 10F hunting gophers

Photo: Coyote 10F, a female born in 2017, hunting gophers on the parade ground at Fort Winfield Scott in the Presidio (credit: Amy Chong)

After a long absence, coyotes returned to the Presidio in 2002 and are now seen regularly in the park. They're also seen in Marin, Golden Gate Park, Lands’ End, Glen Park, and other open spaces throughout the greater Bay Area.

In 2003-2004, the Presidio Trust began working with other Bay Area agencies to develop strategies to help us assess wildlife behavior and determine appropriate responses. Our management actions range from public education to hazing to, under very rare circumstances, lethal removal of a coyote evaluated and determined to be a threat to public safety.

Within a claimed territory, only one pair of coyotes will breed. This bonded male and female are long-term residents of the territory and known as the alpha pair. The pair vigilantly patrols their territory in order to keep non-resident coyotes and other canines (e.g., dogs) out of their territory. The alpha pair remain bonded together for life.

Coyote pupping season usually runs from spring through fall. Typically, as part of the coyotes’ complex social structure, year-old pups are driven from the parents' territory, and the resident population, those that remain in the Presidio long term (e.g. the alpha pair), remains stable. That said, it’s difficult to know precisely how many coyotes are in the Presidio at any given moment given that individual coyotes can move considerable distances in the course of a single day.

If You Encounter a Coyote in the Presidio

  • Keep your distance; do not approach the coyote.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and under your control.
  • Never attempt to feed a coyote. Do not leave human or pet food outside where coyotes might eat it.
  • Exit the area immediately.
  • If a coyote is within 50 feet and does not move away, haze the animal to help it retain a fear of humans:
    • Be as big and loud as possible; shout in a deep, loud, and aggressive voice.
    • Wave your arms and throw small objects (to scare, not injure) toward the coyote.
    • Maintain eye contact, which makes the coyote uncomfortable and timid.
    • If the coyote continues to approach, do not run or turn your back, but continue to exaggerate the gestures while backing away slowly and leaving the area.

If you encounter a coyote during pupping season (spring through fall) AND you have a dog with you, the best course of action is to back away slowly and to leave the area immediately. Coyotes will attempt to drive away other coyotes and dogs from their pups, and hazing may not work.

About the Presidio Trust Coyote Monitoring Program

With the assistance of urban wildlife managers and researchers across the country -- including the National Park Service, United States Geological Survey, U.C. Davis, and the United States Department of Agriculture -- the Presidio Trust has developed a monitoring program to improve the management of coyotes within the Presidio using modern technology. Our monitoring program began in spring 2016 and involves humanely capturing, tagging, health screening, and attaching temporary GPS collars to resident coyotes in the Presidio.

The goals of the program are to:

  • Help us learn more about the resident coyote population in the Presidio so we can improve our management strategies and reduce coyote and dog/human conflict
  • More accurately track the size of the coyote population by tagging individual animals
  • Track coyote movement and activity patterns
  • Improve our ability to identify an active coyote den site
  • Assess the health and diet of coyotes
  • Confirm the number of breeding pairs in the Presidio
  • Assess genetics within the context of the larger Bay Area
  • Learn about the movement and ultimate fate of Presidio-born pups

In summary, we’ve learned the following from the Presidio coyote monitoring program to date:

  • Currently there is one breeding pair in the Presidio, and this pair is preventing another pair from establishing.
  • As of February 2018, five resident coyotes are identifiable. The average annual population in the Presidio is estimated at four to nine individuals; these numbers fluctuate as pups are born, disperse, or die. The public can now identify individuals themselves.
  • Citizen science tracking via ear tags and iNaturalist allows easy identification and recording, while enhancing long-term tracking of coyotes after the temporary collars fall off.
  • The physical health exams suggest Presidio coyotes are healthy.

The Presidio Trust continues to share data with our colleagues at San Francisco Recreation and Park and San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

GPS collar data on a young male that left the Presidio

This map was generated from the GPS collar data on a young male that left the Presidio in fall 2016. His journey lasted about a month before he was killed by a car on Highway 280.

Coyote Management Issues

Coyote behavior can change depending on the individual animal, the season (e.g. pupping), and the environment. When an issue is reported by the public, we gather as many details as possible. Understanding why an incident occurred will inform the management action. Issues are addressed on a case by case basis and appropriate management tools are implemented (increasing signage, adding fencing, temporarily closing a trail, hazing an animal, etc.).

Abnormal behavior (e.g. food conditioning from being fed by humans) is important to identify and address as quickly as possible. Certain behaviors can be corrected through various methods (hazing, etc.), but many abnormal behaviors are uncorrectable. If and when abnormal behaviors are identified and deemed a public safety threat, there are few options other than lethal removal (relocating coyotes is illegal in California and not an option). The unique ear tag identifications reduce the potential for removing the wrong animal.

We continue to inform the public about ways to reduce coyote and human/dog conflict. In addition to signage, flyers, and seasonal updates, our coyote outreach program has expanded to six local preschool/elementary schools. Our citizen science project engages the public to gather information about how coyotes are using the park.

Help Us Monitor Coyotes in the Presidio

Coyote in the Presidio

If you see a coyote in the Presidio, submit a photo and/or report the sighting via iNaturalist through their app or website. If possible, try to identify the presence of ear tags. Note at least one of the colors (see images above). We regularly monitor iNaturalist for information on coyote activity, location, and other relevant information (e.g. what was the coyote doing when you observed it? Was it sleeping in the sun, hunting gophers in a field, etc.?).

We periodically post updates on this web page with information about where coyotes have recently been seen most frequently.

Learn More and Contact Us

  • Read Frequently Asked Questions for simple steps you can take to minimize coyote and dog conflict within the park.
  • Report any incidents of concern (such as aggressive coyote behavior or visitors feeding a coyote) immediately at (415) 561-4148 or
  • Sightings from the public help us understand the behaviors and movements of coyotes so we can improve our management strategies. Share your coyote sightings with us and the community via the iNaturalist website or app.