By Jill Tucker
Camilla Fox is fighting an uphill battle against fairy tales and Saturday morning cartoons.
Children’s stories often feature wild canines in unflattering roles – the wolf that eats Grandma and the dim-witted and Acme-loving coyote that can’t seem to hit the beep-beeping roadrunner with an anvil.
As one of the top coyote protectors in the country, Fox – yes, that’s her real name – gets frustrated by the bad rap the relatively diminutive predators get, even in dog-obsessed San Francisco.
To combat the bias, fear and bad human behavior leveled against coyotes, Fox spent Wednesday and Thursday helping train more than 200 city recreation and park managers and staff members, helping them better understand coyote behavior and how humans can coexist with them in an urban environment.
“Coyotes are the most persecuted native carnivores in the U.S.,” said Fox, executive director of the Larkspur-based Project Coyote. “Most of the time, coyotes want to have nothing to do with us.”
Until a decade ago, there were few, if any, coyotes in San Francisco. While native to the area, they largely had been eliminated by trapping and poisoning in the 1950s and 1960s, Fox said.
Then, at least a couple of them trotted across the Golden Gate Bridge and took up residence in city open spaces.
There are at least 20 in city parks and more in the Presidio, although no one is formally tracking them. Coyotes are crepuscular, or typically active at dawn and dusk, although daytime appearances are not considered unusual.
Still, any sighting can startle and intimidate joggers, parents pushing strollers, golfers or dog walkers – who frequently report the encounters or complain to Animal Care and Control or to park workers.
But coyotes, contrary to belief, are not likely to seek out the city’s Chihuahuas.
“There are certainly people in this city that have more of a fear of these animals,” said Lisa Wayne, the open-space manager for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. “There have been no confirmed reports of coyotes preying on domestic cats or dogs in the city.”
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