Coyotes in urban spaces: Animals' pandemic habits will be slow to change, expert says

Like humans, coyotes have changed their natural habits during to the pandemic.

Tara Campbell Image
Friday, October 21, 2022
Coyotes' pandemic habits will be slow to change: Expert
Bay Area has been seeing more coyotes wandering in human spaces during the pandemic, as expert says it will time for the animals' habits to change.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Eerie images of coyotes wandering empty Bay Area streets became more common amid the pandemic, and it's likely to take some time for people and coyotes to get back to normal.

"I looked just beyond the cat I saw the coyote stalking, and so I think the coyote is going to get the cat, so I picked up my dog and 'ahh!,"' Susan Mohun is describing the moment she saw a coyote ready to pounce on a cat in the Presidio, where she walks with her dog often. "My dog stays right by my side, I have a leash, but she's tiny and stays right by side so I'm kind of hyper-vigilant."

"We're seeing at least increased reports of human coyote interactions locally in certain places, said Dr. Michelle Lute, carnivore conservation director of Project Coyote. "And that's not necessarily in conjunction with an increase in populations but just a change in a number of factors."

Dr. Lute says one of those likely factors, is coyotes getting more comfortable in more spaces amid the pandemic.

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"We saw it not just with coyotes, but with lots of different animals," she explained. "Globally, people were posting videos on social media showing typically wild animals moving through main thoroughfares and towns because the traffic had died down."

And while images of coyotes walking the streets in broad daylight likely aren't going away for good, Dr. Lute explained it shouldn't take too long for them to figure it out.

"In terms of how they might readapt to increased traffic again or changes in human behavior, they're pretty smart and they're going to pick up pretty quickly changes in those patterns," she said.

In the meantime, the doctor wants people protecting their small dogs - putting them on leashes, picking them up if you spot a coyote.

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"My dog would do anything for our family," the girl's mother said.

"We had a very large one come out in front me and I was able to grab my dog, but it's scary, said Susan Mohun, who was walking in the Presidio Thursday morning. "In fact, today I don't have the dog because in this area I walk her less - I tend to take her to the beach where it's safer."

As far as people's own safety, Dr. Lute said coyotes aren't all that interested in attacking people.

"Really these are very, very rare circumstances. This when you have really, really bad levels of habituation - habituation just means the animal has lost it's natural wariness and is way too comfortable being around people," she said.

"One of the biggest things for preventing conflict is to prevent any unintentional feeding that's happening in your backyard. So, securing compost, making sure birdseed is cleaned up so it's not attracting to many rodents and drawing coyotes."

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