More than 250 gardeners participated in the department’s first official biodiversity training sessions last week, in partnership with Project Coyote and Habitat Potential. They were taught how coyotes, native to the Bay Area, are typically wary of people and exhibit the boldest behavior due to feeding, the presence of dogs, or when defending a den with their young. Spring is the animals’ birthing season.
“When you work out in the field, you encounter many different types of wildlife and we really wanted [gardeners] to be prepared,” Rec and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan said. “Biodiversity training is very helpful to debunk the myth about coyotes as dangerous.”
Coyotes have become more prominent in The City in the past few years, she said, and can reside in any green space. They are most common in the Golden Gate Park, Glen Canyon, Bernal Heights and Twin Peaks areas.
“The return of the wildlife, the wide range of them now showing up in the park system, really speaks volumes of the success of our staff who have been doing a great job maintaining natural areas in an urban environment,” Chan said.
Marin-based national nonprofit Project Coyote, which led much of the training, encourages the public to walk dogs on leashes during pupping season and to use visual and noise deterrents such as umbrellas and whistles if approached by a bold coyote.
Coyotes are the most persecuted native carnivores in North America, with an estimated half-million killed each year by federal government trappers, hunters and in wildlife-killing contests, which the California Fish and Game Commission is considering a ban against, said Project Coyote founder and Executive Director Camilla Fox.
“One coyote can consume up to 1,800 rodents a year to help song and ground-nesting bird populations and they also help limit midsized predators like skunks, raccoons and foxes,” she said.
The training also addressed coexisting with other wildlife that gardeners might encounter and builds on a biodiversity plan the department has been developing. The department would like to hold similar trainings in the future but does not yet have a clear picture of when and how often, Chan said.
It was “a fitting endeavor,” Fox said, “in a city named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.”