By Tim Hill
The front steps of City College’s main campus approaching the Science building were host to an unusual visitor, at least during daylight hours. On Saturday, Jan. 16, a coyote was spotted climbing the front stairs of campus facing Frida Kahlo Way. Although San Francisco has long been a haven for coyotes, they are generally nocturnal animals and tend to stay within the confines of parks and beaches within San Francisco.
One would normally expect to see the majestic canids, which are the region’s de facto apex predator, amongst the more urban realms of the Bay Area, in the early morning or at dusk. I would often see them around 6 a.m. while riding the 5-Fulton bus past Golden Gate Park on my way downtown, usually travelling in pairs. Although already common throughout the majority of the continental United States as well as Canada, Mexico, and Central America, they continue to successfully inhabit urban areas that would not be suitable for most other predators.
Over the last few years, coyotes have been seen more frequently inside San Francisco city limits. As people leave garbage, pet food, and other rodent attractants out in the open, coyotes have more of a variety of food items to choose from.
With San Francisco and the rest of the world on lockdown for nearly a year now, coyotes are making their presence more known. In addition, coyotes are also becoming bolder around people. Citizens have reported an increase in confrontational and intimidating behavior from the wild canids while walking their domestic ones. Any dog under, say, 50 pounds would be easy prey for a coyote.
It isn’t clear as to what specific prey items are driving coyotes to frequent a particular area. On campus, rodents are more prevalent, as well as raccoons, all of which are possible candidates for a coyote dinner. Campus is generally desolate and quiet these days, so perhaps the coyotes have gotten braver because they have not associated human activity as a threat.
To my knowledge, this has been the first documented sighting of a coyote on campus, and what an entrance it has made! Its ascent up the front steps toward the science building was the canine version of Rocky. If this continues to be a recurring sighting, the probability of people becoming concerned and calling Animal Control may be more likely.
A 2017 San Francisco Chronicle article by Peter Fimrite detailed the bloody demise of Bella, a shih tzu that was snatched in front of its owner’s eyes in the Balboa Terrace neighborhood, which is very close to City College. Let this be a warning to pet owners: keep your pets inside and supervised!