Dog owners beware: Coyote sightings & interactions on the rise in Presidio


It’s pup season for San Francisco’s coyote population (March through October), and that means coyote parents are on high alert and ready to defend their dens. As a result, there’s been an alarming increase this month in coyote sightings and interactions across the city, and in our own nearby Presidio.

Reader Lisa G. said her husband was walking their 80 pound Labrador retriever on Saturday, April 23 around 7:30pm when her dog was attacked by a coyote. The dog was on a leash.

“There were two coyotes that surrounded my husband and the dog while inching closer,” Lisa wrote.

One of the coyotes bit her dog, and it wasn’t until a golf cart drove up that they were scared off.

Lisa’s dog didn’t need medical attention, but she was shocked at their brazen approach.

“If these coyotes were comfortable enough to bite an 80lb dog and stalk my husband, what’s next?”

Coyote sightings & interactions in The Presidio of San Francisco

Coyote sightings & interactions in The Presidio of San Francisco

It’s an excellent question, especially as reports of coyote sightings and interactions this month are on the rise among owners that take their dogs on walks along the Presidio’s southern roads and trails (more on coyotes in the Presidio).

In the last 2 weeks alone, we’ve heard of five incidents where coyotes approached and sometimes confronted a dog and their owner.

During the week of April 4, one woman encountered a pack of five coyotes along the Marine Cemetery Vista trail behind the Landmark apartments. She said two of the coyotes went for her dog, while the other three surrounded them. Her dog was not injured, but when we encountered her, she was on a mission to tell as many other dog owners as she could about the incident.

Another man walking his dog saw a coyote on the lake side of the fence near the eastern shore of Mountain Lake.

“My dog saw it first and stopped, then I saw movement in the bushes,” he said.

We’ve had our own run-ins with coyotes on the Marine Cemetery Vista trail and on the Lobos Creek Valley Trail. The incidents have typically been in the morning hours, between 7am and 8am.

Our first interaction occurred on the Lobos Creek Valley Trail as we were approaching Battery Caulfield Road. A coyote came out of nowhere and loped along with us about 10 yards away, in a playful manner. Some shouting and stick throwing scared it off.

The next encounter, in that same area about 2 weeks later, was more serious. On Thursday, April 21, a coyote, in its usual stealth ninja style, appeared right next to my dog and growled and snapped its snout at it. I was able to scare it off but it was a much more aggressive interaction.

In another incident, a coyote popped up at the east end of the Marine Cemetery Vista trail and engaged in a flanking maneuver to get ahead of us on the trail and lie in wait.

Signs like this are posted in a few spots in the Presidio and Mt Lake Park

Signs like this are posted in a few spots in the Presidio and Mt Lake Park

“Nothing can be done”

After her dog was bitten, Lisa G. called the Presidio to report the incident. Their response was not helpful.

“When we called the golf course to report the incident we were told it’s a national park and nothing can be done,” Lisa said. “Why do these wild animals have more rights than we do?”

Other neighborhoods in the city are feeling the coyote crunch as well. At a hearing in March, concerned citizens were told they just have to learn to coexist with the animals whose population is growing rapidly.

“When I called the Department of Animal Control, I was told nothing can be done until a human being is killed,” Ingleside Terrace resident Daniel Curzon Brown said. “Well, maybe that’s what it’s going to take.”

In the Presidio, the response to the increase has been similarly tepid. According to Jonathan Young, a wildlife ecologist with the Presidio Trust, they are “securing garbage and requiring residents to keep small pets like cats indoors. They are also attempting to track coyotes and monitor active den sites.”

The city first started receiving calls about coyotes in 2007. That same year, two were shot and killed in Golden Gate Park after an aggressive encounter with dogs. That resulted in public outcry and led the city to develop a policy that emphasizes coexistence.

But how much longer can that policy stay in place? A dog was killed by a coyote in Stern Grove in 2015, and just this March, a coyote attacked and killed a dog in front of a home in Balboa Terrace.

All the while, the coyote population continues to grow and the spaces they occupy stay the same, making their interactions with humans and pets more frequent.

What to do when you encounter a coyote

It’s only a matter of time before a dog is seriously injured or killed in the Presidio or Golden Gate Park. So dog owners, please be very cautious and completely avoid areas where there have been sightings, or where warning signs are posted.

When you see a coyote, be sure to report it to Animal Care and Control by calling (415) 554-9400 or emailing acc@sfgov.org. Within the Presidio, report any incidents of concern (such as aggressive coyote behavior or visitors feeding a coyote) immediately at (415) 561-4148 or coyote@presidiotrust.gov.

Leashing your dog is also very important. Coyotes “may give territorial messages to dogs who come too close, the same as they do to any other non-family coyote who might potentially threaten their territorial claims: this could result in a nip to your dog’s haunches — cattle-dog fashion — to get the dog to leave the area. And small pets may look like any other prey to them: so please leash your pets in known coyote areas and don’t allow them to roam free.” [baynature.org]

Here are some helpful tips from baynature.org on how to manage an encounter with a coyote:

Everyone with a dog should know how to shoo off a coyote who has come too close — it’s know-how that’s needed just in case there’s an unexpected encounter. Simply harassing a coyote with screams, flailing arms and making yourself look big is often not effective. Coyotes get used to this and eventually ignore it as meaningless and quirky human behavior. It’s best actually to:

1) approach or charge towards the coyote, and to,
2) do so menacingly as though you’re out to get them, by eyeballing them with eye-to-eye contact and yelling “SCRAM, get out of here!”

Often, your piercing gaze into their eyes alone is enough to get them to move on.

However — and this is an all-important caveat — if they absolutely do not move, it will be because pups are close by. In this case, it’s best to keep the peace by respecting their need to keep you out of the area they won’t move from: just back away rather than provoke an incident, without running. If one follows you, turn and face the coyote — he’s unlikely to come closer with your eyes glaring at him. However, if he just stands there, again, try charging in his direction as described above to get him off of your tail. As always, prevention is the best medicine — always keep your distance in the first place.

Stay safe everyone!

Sarah B.


  1. Our family has been here since the 1880s. We chose to live in a city, not suburbs or forest. I don’t believe it’s safe to carry guns, but I may have to change that to protect my pet and myself from non human wildlife.

  2. I grew up at the base of a canyon in the East Bay that was also part of national park land, where I experienced wildlife in all of its forms every day – cougars, wild boar, deer, raccoons, possum, vultures. You name it, we saw it. And even then, our neighborhood never experienced attacks or interactions like the ones happening in San Francisco lately. Combine the coyote problem with the recent raccoon attacks, we do not feel safe letting our dogs out alone in our own backyard. Walks at night have been cut back severely bc of the amount of raccoons we have seen running around on Balboa street. While I fully support co-existing with nature, this is getting a bit out of control and it’s only a matter of time before a human is attacked. I wish more would be done about it.

  3. If you have a big dog, i think its better if you leave dog offleash so they can run or protect themselves. We had 2 coyotes surround us a few weeks ago. My dog (a collie) was off leash and he went into full protect mode. He chased away coyotes in effort to protect us. Ive also resorted to carrying 2 rocks in my pocket at all times in presidio. The coyotes are beautiful but need to protect yourseld especially during pup season

  4. the racoons are definitely og of control, and frankly they are almost as big as the coyotes

  5. More often than not, I see dogs that are off leash, with owners fiddling with their phones and not paying attention, behind the landmark apartments, on the trail through the golf course and around the lake. I wonder if the loose dogs running off trail draw the coyotes.

    I have seen coyotes a few times walking my dog, on leash, and have never had issues. I think having this wildlife here is pretty magical.

  6. Raccoons are a bigger problem in the Richmond than coyotes are. They killed a neighbors cat in my backyard and continue to harass other pets and people. I wish the city would reduce their numbers. They are looking for more areas to settle in as their numbers increase at a rapid rate.

  7. Stop it already. The Outer Lands are returning to a era of being a richer ecosystem. While it’s a bit out of kilter because Rocky and Wiley have no natural predators here, deal with it. Sensible precautions will overcome the situation just like black bear country. Forget the guns and extermination business — there are a few sanitary suburbs without open space where you can move.

  8. This is a very helpful article and just wrote to Animal Control as suggested.

    On Mon, 4/25/16, 1:25am, I saw a coyote in the Sunset district of SF. My 17 # dog was on leash and we were in the alley of the housing complex on Shriner’s Ave, between Moraga and Noriega.

    The coyote looked about 40 pounds and seemed to have hurried toward us before coming to a complete stop. It followed us slowly for about 10 seconds, and I was able to make it home holding my dog without complications.

    I wasn’t sure how to behave. I walked quickly and stopped looking back after awhile. Now I’m more prepared and will be sure to stay on busier streets if I must go out so late.

  9. I watched the KRON video, and it seems the Coyote was more interested in the lady walking the dog. I saw a Coyote this morning, but it hurried on by and went into the brush along the roadside. After talking with various joggers and commuters alike, all the sightings are either very early in the AM or in the late evening. I’m more worried about idiots with unleashed dogs that have attacked me and my son, and soon, the bevy of untrained idiots firing bullets at coyotes.

  10. “Wile E. Coyote… Super Genius!”

    IMO, next time your big lab is approached by any sort of perceivable aggression (coyotes, dogs, people, etc.), in most situations like that I would unleash the dog and let it go into animal mode. The one caveat, I would probably restrain my dog from raccoons.

    …Or folks could always walk with a Shillelagh.

  11. The city is too crowded already. Too many people, now too many coyotes, too many raccoons. 49 square miles isn’t getting bigger. Just more crowded. Adding wildlife to the mix is a disaster waiting to happen.

  12. I’d worry MUCH more about the raccoons. They will take up residence in your home and breed, and will tear apart screens, insulation, and such with their formidable claws. They have no fear of humans, and as noted, will attack and kill cats and small dogs with no provocation. They also can carry both rabies and Leptospirosis.

    Now, coyotes kill rats, mice, and rabbits, and have no interest in living in your attic. I’d prefer them 10 times out of 10.

  13. So, I did the Butterlap last night, a weekly Wednesday bike ride that goes from the Embarcadero up to the GG Bridge, then up to the Legion of Honor, and continues on elsewhere into the city. We stopped at the LoH around 9:30, and we saw 3 or four Raccoons running around near the entrance.

    After about 10 minutes a coyote came running out into the parking lot near the center fountain area. He wandered around and watched us for a bit…They are definitely out there, and they are getting pretty bold. Watch your pets!

  14. finally, some good news in SF. real excited to hear about all these coyotes popping up! run free, run wild coyote!

  15. So its fine from the park’s point of view if there are 7 coyote encounters a month, but unacceptable if there are 6 “dog incidents” a year…. Just saying…

  16. Matthew – I’m guessing you don’t have a dog or cat who goes outdoors, or don’t care if they become dinner.

  17. You folks are just bored and looking for something to do. Spare your misplaced indignation by leaving the coyotes alone.

  18. I saw a 40-50 pound coyote on the Sea Cliff side of California St at 28th Ave on May 1, 2016 at 10:45 pm. I was walking from my car to my apartment. I notified ACC.

  19. you all live in a city. You, your children and your pets are FAR FAR FAR more likely to be injured or killed by automobiles, criminals or cancer than a 40lb coyote. Please. You all sound like my over-paranoid mom, get over it… We are humans with dogs, coyotes are the ones fearing us. I keep close eyes on my kid at all times when out in the city, not for fear of coyotes or raccoons, but because this is a BIG CITY and there are LOTS OF DANGEROUS THINGS ALL AROUND US EVERY DAY.

  20. Good article and practical, proven suggestions. Coyotes are here to stay and yes, it is quite likely we will all be coexisting quite peaceably once people learn about their behaviors and what to avoid (feeding, intentionally or not; avoid dens and learn to respect their cues and efforts to steer you away).
    The public may not necessarily be seeing “more” coyotes but rather the same coyotes over and over since their territory is quite expansive. Unsupervised pets face many dangers no matter where you live, so always keep a close eye on them.
    The coyotes may very well be keeping the rodent population down: think Lyme Disease). They serve an important purpose even if some residents haven’t recognized it yet.

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