During Pup Season, Coyote Whisperer Warns of Canine Encounters

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If you’re a pet-owner, you may have already heard about the small dog that was attacked by a coyote near Stern Grove last week. Turns out, it’s pup-season for coyotes. This is the time of year when — just like us! — stressed-out mama coyotes are introducing their progeny to life in San Francisco.

Coyotes roam in many San Francisco’s parks and open spaces, although the coyotes in Bernal Heights are exceptionally creative and stylish. Of course, we Bernalese are world-famous for our fondness for dogs, and lots of those pets also roam free here. So during pup season, Janet Kessler, creator of Coyote Yipps, a blog about San Francisco coyotes, shares this wisdom about coyote-canine interactions:

It is coyote pupping season again! During pupping season there is more potential for dog/coyote encounters and possible confrontations. By following simple guidelines we can prevent most encounters and we can be prepared for any inadvertent encounter that does pop up.

San Francisco has several dozen coyotes living in the city, mostly in nuclear families. They’re in all of our major parks. Because most folks in San Francisco have dogs or cats, and because there are pups in some of the parks — pups would be about 4 months old now — it is a good time to brush up on coyote behavior and the guidelines necessary for peacefully coexisting. The information applies in any park where there are coyotes, whether or not there are pups.

Coyotes are out most often when it’s dark and when we humans aren’t around. However, most folks now realize that it’s not uncommon to see coyotes out during the day — they are not nocturnal animals.

Coyotes live in family units, not packs of unrelated individuals. We have a number of coyote families living in the city of San Francisco. Coyotes mate for life, and both parents raise the young and watch out for their safety — we’re talking about real family life here. It’s hard not to admire a species that puts so much effort into maintaining their own monogamous relationship and into the care and safety of their youngsters. Parents play with, bring food to, groom, defend, lead family outings, teach, tease and discipline their youngsters, not so differently from the way humans do: coyote life is about family life. Each family claims a territory from which other coyotes are kept out. This insures that there will be enough resources for the family unit.

How to get along with coyotes? Treat them as you would any other wild animal, such as a skunk or raccoon, by moving away from them and keeping your dogs away from them, which can only be done by leashing up! Leashing will keep your dog from chasing a coyote, and it will keep your dog close to you, thus discouraging a coyote from coming in closer to your dog. Coyotes will do their utmost to avoid humans and human encounters, so the issue isn’t about you. However, although they’ll shy away from people, they 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. Coyotes have been spotted wandering through virtually every park in San Francisco.

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.

“Coyotes As Neighbors” is a YouTube video presentation which explains relevant coyote behavior — including their intense family lives and territoriality towards other canines, be they dogs or other coyotes — plus guidelines for keeping us all, humans, pets AND coyotes, safe and worry-free. The video includes two demos on how to effectively shoo off a coyote who has come too close. [There’s also a Spanish version and a Mandarin version.]

Here’s what to look for: Janet also shares this video of a female coyote in San Francisco acting distressed because of the presence of dogs:

PHOTO: Top, Janet Kessler

Dissident Parrots Find Sanctuary in Bernal Community Garden

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Neighbor Craig reports that a flock of wild parrots has been spotted in eastern Bernal’s Dogpatch-Miller Community Garden.

That makes sense, because it’s an election year, and Aaron Peskin is on the ballot.

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As you must certainly recall, in 2012 ornithologists from the Bernalwood Political Research Unit determined that the wild parrots in Bernal Heights “are refugees from Telegraph Hill who fled to Bernal Heights to escape the stultifying NIMBYism and shrill politics of that part of the City in general — and Aaron Peskin in particular.”

At the moment, Aaron Peskin is campaigning to once again represent District 3 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. So the move by these free-spirited parrots to seek sanctuary several miles from Telegraph Hill should come as no surprise.

Please welcome the dissident parrots with the warmth and neighborly generosity for which Bernal Heights is world-famous.

PHOTOS: Craig Saitowitz

Bernal Neighbor Witnesses Dramatic Bee Swarm Rescue on Cesar Chavez

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Neighbor Miles was on the scene yesterday as a group of volunteers rallied to help rescue a hive of bees that had become stranded near the corner of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Valencia Street.

Here with an exclusive Bernalwood Action News report, let’s go to Neighbor Miles:

First time I’ve ever seen one of these! What struck me was the brief, random, yet intense intersection of the people on the scene.

At 4:30 yesterday afternoon in front of St Lukes, a cloud of bees surround three men and a woman as they carefully positioned a large cardboard box on the sidewalk. The box was crawling with bees, and the largest man is gently dust panning more bees into the box. The bees were everywhere yet no one was getting stung.

One man went to get a roll of tape, while the large man took a plastic water bottle and sprinkling the bees.

The woman explained the bees are looking for a new hive. (Editor’s Note This video of the incident tells us the queen bee was the main passenger in the cardboard box.)  The woman said she keeps bees herself, and she was smiling broadly.

She didn’t not know the fist two men, but explained that they were from Slovienia (?!) and will be taking the bees north with them as they are heading past Marin. The third man, who was at one point, he tells me, covered all over his head and chest with bees, is like me: ignorant about the business of bees. His eyes were wide with shock and thrill.

“No,” he said, “I’ve never had 50 bees crawing on me.”

The tape arrived, and people became fully relaxed and happy, and they began Instagramming pictures. A security guard from the hospital came out to thank everyone.

The men climbed in their work van with the bee box, pulled a U-turn, and were gone.

PHOTO: Miles Epstein
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Governmental Organic Autonomous Trimming System Activated Near Holly Park Reservoir

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Neighbor Barbara reports on the herd of goats she saw yesterday near Holly Park Reservoir:

While walking in Bernal, this trusty reporter was startled by an odd sound near Holly Park, as documented in 2011.

Surveying the landscape, she realized there was a heard of goats munching on vegetation around the Great Reservoir off Holly Park Circle. The collection of goats, ranging from babies to adults, were happily munching on grasses and low-hanging branches, hemmed in by a temporary fence. When last reported in Bernalwood, this Governmental Organic Autonomous Trimming System (GOATS) was used for brush/fire management.

PHOTO: Neighbor Barbara

Visualize: Artsy Bags of Abandoned Dog Poo Around Bernal Hill

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Neighbor Richard has found a creative outlet in the little bags of doggie poo he often finds around Bernal Hill:

I submit that these pictures are worthy of your publication if only for the insidious danger and warning to our community they represent. Surely nobody has submitted pictures of s*** so beautifully wrapped and photographed in a natural park setting? What can be done? What shall we do?

Like many Bernal denizens, I walk frequently upon our glorious hill — and I’ve been doing that for some 15 years now. I cannot help but notice this strange practice has been increasing over the past year, and it really bespoils the hill for everyone. It has always amazed me that so many many dog owners are so irresponsible. No fault is due the dogs, but some owners, after using a plastic bag for the inevitable, will not carry it to the trash receptacle once the deed is done. Instead they leave the gift wrapped poop plainly in sight for someone else to pick up behind them. At least they don’t sling it into the bushes (although I haven’t really checked).

These are pictures I took Saturday late afternoon during just one 30 minute walk around the hill.

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PHOTOS: Neighbor Richard

Spotter’s Report: Which of These Bernal Birds Is the Mostest Cutest?

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Neigbor John and his 7 year-old son Eddie have been out bird-watching again, and they bring us this update on some of the avians they’ve spotted recently around Bernal Heights:

Getting good focus on the birds is really hard, as they move around a lot, and the plants have a tendency to attract the auto zoom. But we have great birds on the hill, and this is one way to share them.

Here are three super cool birds all found in less than fifteen minutes in the pine trees just up Bernal Heights Boulevard near the gate on the north side of the hill.

The first is a Nutthall’s Woodpecker. We are more familiar with the Ladder Backed Woodpecker, but it generally doesn’t come this far north and the red is a bit further back on the head of the Nutthall’s, which you can clearly see here. There must be a ton of bugs in the dead trunk just up from the live pines as this woodpecker was pecking ferociously:

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The Pygmy Nuthatch and Chestnut Backed Chickadee are in a dead heat for cutest bird on the hill. Here’s the Pygmy Nuthatch:

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Birds standing still in the nice light is a highly unnatural act, and the cutest birds seem to be the most shy. Here’s the Chestnut Backed Chickadee:

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It looks like we also have a pair of Red Tailed Hawks nesting on the hill. If you look closely, you can see nesting material in the hawk’s beak. I hope we can look forward to a few months of serious hawk activity:

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PHOTOS: Neighbor John and Neighbor Eddie

Bernal Neighbors Co-Found High-Tech Veterinary House Call Startup

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Against the backdrop our our recent neighborly conversation about pet etiquette and urgent pet care, Bernalwood learns that a team of Bernal neighbors have banded together to launch VetPronto, a new pet-tech veterinary startup.

Neighbor Joe writes:

Hi. My name is Joe Waltman and I recently moved to Bernal Heights (north slope) with my wife (Lindsay) and two kids (Maddie – 6 months and Will – 2.5 years).

I wanted to let pet-owning Bernalese know about our company, a house-call veterinary service called VetPronto.

We would like to think that house calls are more convenient for the owner and less stressful for the pet. If your furry friends need to see the doctor, please consider a VetPronto house call. And, if you have any questions about your pet’s health, we provide free answers from licensed veterinarians here.

Folks seem to be digging it on the Yelp, and VetPronto even got a fancy write-up on TechCrunch:

A new company looking to make it more convenient for pet owners to see their local veterinarian, VetPronto, is now live in San Francisco. A member of the Y Combinator Winter 2015 class, VetPronto is offering on-demand house call veterinary services for dogs and cats, allowing customers to skip a visit to the clinic or just see a vet at a more convenient time – like on evenings and weekends, for example.

The company was founded last spring by Brian Hur, Joe Waltman, and Soren Berg, the latter two who previously sold their email marketing company to Twitter. Meanwhile, Hur is a former Microsoft systems engineer-turned-vet.

“Once I got into the veterinary industry, I noticed there were a lot of gaps in technology all the way through,”Hur explains. “And since getting out and practicing medicine, I’ve really focused on bridging those gaps and making sure that veterinary medicine can be upgraded for the dot-com era.”

A practicing vet since 2011, Hur did the first 100 or so VetPronto appointments himself, before the company contracted with other area veterinarians. Today, it has five vets working part-time and is soon adding a sixth to serve its customers in San Francisco, which is the startup’s main geographic focus for now.

Here’s the pitch video:

PHOTO: Neighbor Joe Waltman and family, via VetPronto