Due to recent encounters between dogs and coyotes, San Francisco officials are warning dog owners to steer clear of some parts of Golden Gate Park. Park officials have posted warnings on trails near the middle and north lakes. They have also released a map (pdf) of the signs’ locations.

“The coyotes have been stalking and following people, and baring their teeth and things of that nature, which is normal behavior for coyotes, especially when there is another dog,” San Francisco Animal Care and Control Lt. Le-Ellis Brown told KGO.

Gina Farr, a spokeswoman for Project Coyote, says the coyotes are protecting their dens. “What they’re doing is not being aggressive,” said Farr, “They’re being assertive. They’re escorting what they think is the threat — the dog — away from their young family in the dens.”

Recreation and Parks Department spokesperson Sarah Ballard said dog owners may have to steer clear of the barricaded areas for as long as into the summer. “The coyotes may become more assertive during their pup rearing season, which is April to August,” Ballard said, “So obviously we will defer to the experts, but our expectation is that these precautions may be in place for that entire period.”

Not all coyotes become defensive this time of year; only an alpha pair has pups.

Dogs are still welcome in all of Golden Gate Park’s off-leash play areas.

For the pro-coyote crowd…compelling photos taken by nature photographer David Cruz:

Cruz is interviewed in this KGO TV news report

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