Coyotes in the Presidio

​​​​​​​​October 1, 2018 Update
Coyote pupping season for the year has ended and all trails in the Presidio are now reopened to dog walking. Please remain alert in all areas of the park and keep your pet on a leash at all times. ​

If You Encounter a Coyote in the Presidio

tagged coyote in the Presidio 
  • Keep your distance; do not approach the coyote.
  • Keep your dog on a leash and under your control.
  • Observe posted signs about coyote activity in the park.
  • Supervise children when outdoors.
  • Never attempt to feed a coyote. Do not leave human or pet food outside where coyotes might eat it. Presidio residents should put garbage out on the morning of pickup instead of the night before. To get a clip for your trash bin from Presidio Trust WO Service Center, call (415) 561-4270.

If you encounter a coyote within 50 feet and the coyote does not move away on its own, here are ways you can haze/intimidate 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)
  • Maintain eye contact, which makes them uncomfortable and timid
  • If the coyote continues to approach, do not run or turn your back on the coyote, but continue to exaggerate the above gestures while backing away slowly. Please report this type of incident to (415) 561-4148 or coyote@presidiotrust.gov.

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

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/intimidation to ensure the animal retains its fear of humans 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 out of their territory. The alpha pair remain bonded together for life.

Coyote pupping season usually runs from spring to 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.

What we’ve Learned about Presidio Coyotes from our Research

Researcher in the Presidio

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 using modern technology to improve the management of coyotes within the Presidio. 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 minimize dog/coyote conflict
  • 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

Since the coyote monitoring program began, we’ve tagged and temporarily 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’ve tracked their journeys as they try to find their own territory elsewhere (see dispersal map below). Many of these animals have not survived the harsh realities of urban traffic.

GPS collar data on a young male that left the Presidio

Dispersal Map: 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.

Currently, there are six identifiable coyote individuals in the Presidio, including one alpha pair (see images with color coding).​

Note, the black bars represent the collars with 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.


Tagged Coyotes

In 2018, we expect to:

  • Continue to track the movement of collared animals using GPS in order to improve our coyote management strategies
  • Continue and expand our education and outreach efforts
  • 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

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 in response (e.g. 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/intimidation, 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.

Something to keep in mind: as with other members of the biological family Canidae (including other extant and extinct dog-like mammals, such as domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals, and dingoes) coyote behavior is shaped through experience and coyotes in urban environments become gradually conditioned to urban stimuli and the constant presence of humans in populated areas. As a result, urban coyotes express behavioral plasticity – or the ability to change in response to their unique environment. Behavioral plasticity enables coyotes to be successful in urban areas.

For instance, an urban coyote hunting rodents in the grass may behave similar to a urban deer foraging on a lawn at dusk. An urban deer regularly see humans and though they may stop for a moment and assess the human presence, if it isn't approached by a human, it will continue foraging. Similarly, a coyote hunting rodents or meandering about its urban territory will appear confident, rather than timid, and will continue hunting unless a human asserts themselves toward the animal. Over time, urban animals gradually develop a heightened level of comfort with perpetual exposure to people and in the absence of threat.

This means a coyote exhibiting bold behavior in the presence of humans shouldn't necessarily be seen as aggressive behavior. Coyotes are extremely quick – they have excellent spatial orientation and often times will not feel vulnerable in the presence of humans at close distances in urban environments. This is important to keep in mind when you encounter coyotes in the Presidio, and when assessing abnormal and normal coyote behavior. However, if a coyote approaches humans, especially without a dog, this may indicate abnormal behavior (e.g. having been fed by humans in the past) and should be reported immediately.   

As part of our Coyote Management program, we continue to monitor coyotes for changes in behavior, and 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 and our citizen science project engages the public to gather information about how coyotes are using the park. These programs help us educate the public while developing programs where we can learn more from community observations.  ​

Help Us Monitor Coyotes in the Presidio

Coyote at Fort Winfield Scott

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 Report Incidents of Concern

  • 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 coyote@presidiotrust.gov.
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