Coyotes are native to California and common in urban areas including large cities like San Francisco. The number of coyotes living in San Francisco is difficult to estimate, but urban coyotes typically live and hunt in uninhabited green spaces like parks and golf courses, including Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, which is studying the resident coyotes (see Coyotes in the Presidio).
While sitings of coyotes are fairly common, the actual number of coyotes is limited by available food sources, habitat, and coyote behavior. Coyotes can live alone or in small family packs. They weigh 18 to 30 pounds. The alpha male and female in a family group are the only ones who mate, and they mate and have babies only once a year. Sadly, many of the pups do not survive to adulthood, but those who do, will either stay with the family group or disperse to find their own territory or join another family group.
Coyotes help balance the ecosystem, even in cities, by controlling rodents and other small mammals and eating dead animals (carrion). Although they are carnivores and will eat rats, mice, rabbits, and raccoons, they also eat fruit, berries, and other vegetation. It is important to NOT feed coyotes or any wildlife intentionally or unintentionally, because when wildlife loses its natural fear of humans, they can become more aggressive. Coyotes cannot be relocated under California state law; if they become too accustomed to people, they may have to be trapped, and then euthanized.
How to Keep Pets Safe from Coyotes
- Keep cats indoors, especially at night
- Keep dogs on a leash, especially during coyote pup rearing season (April to August)
- Don’t leave pets unattended in your yard, especially cats and small dogs (coyotes can jump 6 feet and dig under fences)
- Feed your pets indoors or bring in pet food at night
- Clean up bird seed, which attracts rodents and coyotes
- Keep your garbage can secure
- Scare away coyotes that come close to you and your pet by yelling, clapping, or waving your arms; during pup rearing season, coyotes may aggressively defend their young particularly from dogs, so if you see a coyote from spring to fall, leave the area quickly, pick up a small dog; do not run
If You See an Injured Coyote
In San Francisco, call Animal Care and Control as soon as possible at (415) 554-9400. For other locations in the Bay Area or beyond, click here.