Two coyotes killed in Golden Gate Park 

The two coyotes thought to have attacked several dogs in Golden Gate Park during the weekend were shot dead by federal authorities late Sunday night.

Using a call mimicking a prey animal in distress, United States Department of Agriculture employees lured the coyotes into the open, then shot them with a small hunting rifle, USDA spokesman Larry Hawkins said. The canines were shot about 100 feet from the site of where their initial attack occurred, on Overlook Drive near the pumping station at Speedway Meadows.

The animals were shot sometime after 11 p.m. Sunday, after officials with the California Department of Fish and Game ruled that they were a safety threat because of their aggressive behavior.

The adult coyotes, a male and a female, are thought to be the same ones responsible for two attacks on pet dogs over the weekend.

The first occurred Saturday morning, when two coyotes attacked a woman’s two leashed Rhodesian ridgebacks — dogs that can weigh more than 100 pounds. One of the dogs suffered four bites, two of which required stitches, said Carl Friedman, director of the San Francisco Department of Animal Control.

A second incident Sunday did not result in injury, as the coyotes were chased off when they tried to attack two pet Jack Russell terriers along Middle Drive, Friedman said.

Friedman said the Fish and Game officials made the call that the animals should be destroyed after observing them Sunday. The two coyotes did not approach the humans, but did not run, either. They appeared to be standing their ground, ready to protect their territory, he said.

"[The officials] realized that if theanimals got a hold of a small dog or a child, something more serious would occur," Friedman said.

While it is unclear what caused the coyotes to lose their fear of humans, officials speculated that they had been fed or developed some other intimacy with one or more people.

"Feeding coyotes is not only problematic for people, it pretty much dooms the animal to destruction," Hawkins said.

He said that when coyotes living in urban areas lose their fear of people and pets, they begin to pose a safety risk.

Reports of coyote sightings in San Francisco have been coming into Animal Care and Control for about a year now, Friedman said. The gray-brown animals, which generally weigh about 20 to 30 pounds, have been reported in Golden Gate Park, John McLaren Park, Bernal Hill and the Presidio, he said.

Jamie Ray, who runs the San Francisco Rescued Orphaned Mammal Program, estimated The City’s coyote population at about four to six. She said more of the animals, which have a range of about 45 to 50 miles, may come into town from parkland to the south to hunt gophers and moles, which are abundant in city parks.

Orr said officials are confident that the two coyotes killed Sunday are the same ones responsible for the attacks because they were discovered just 100 feet from one of the attack sites exhibiting uncharacteristically bold behavior.

"You have a situation where the coyotes were not showing fear of humans. They attacked two sizable dogs on a leash," Orr said.

Coyote safety

Coyote sightings in San Francisco have been reported for more than a year. Officials say coyotes could become dangerous if they lose their fear of humans.

Don’t:

» Feed or attempt to tame a coyote.

» Leave pet food out at night if coyotes may be nearby.

» Allow pets to interactwith coyotes.

» Allow pets out at night in coyote habitats.

» Allow children and pets to roam unsupervised in known coyote habitats.

Do:

» Latch or secure trash can lids if you live in or near a known coyote habitat.

» Report coyote sightings to the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control.

» Vaccinate, spay and neuter your pets.

» If you encounter an aggressive coyote, keep yourself between the animal and your child. Make noise and act aggressively to scare the coyote off. Don't turn your back and run.

amartin@examiner.com


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