Thursday, March 15, 2007

Barbara Meskunas: Cull Coyotes for Off-Leash Dogs - San Francisco's Dog Blog

The Coyote, Canis latrans, is a close cousin to our canine companions, but with far better lore. Native Americans considered coyote as creator, trickster, culture hero, fool, and--not surprisingly for a critter with so many persona--as shape-shifter.

European colonists did not share this reverence. They initiated a gruesome coyote extermination campaign, and to this day Animal Damage Control--euphemistically renamed Wildlife Services when its activities became notorious--kills thousands of coyotes each year.

In the Bay Area, the effectiveness of the extermination is evident nearly everywhere, with coyote long absent but for eponym in places like the Presidio's Coyote Gulch and Fremont's Coyote Hills Regional Park.

But in the past several years, a miracle occurred: the coyote returned to San Francisco. Sporadic sightings were reported in the City, bringing hope and wonder to many San Franciscans, and giving the editors at San Francisco's Dog Blog the opportunity to see first hand the wildness that once defined our dogs. For example, in 2003, a lone coyote was observed repeatedly at Bernal Hill, inspiring a documentary about the resilience of nature and the coyote's importance in our world.

So it came as quite a shock to the editors here at San Francisco's Dog Blog when Supervisor Ed Jew's controversial legislative aid, Ms. Barbara Meskunas, informed the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon of her intention to initiate a coyote cull in the City. The reason? To "protect []wandering cats, off-leash dogs, and small children," she said. "Only an idiot would do nothing when there are wild animals in the park eating cats and small dogs. Children will be next!"

Now, Ms. Meskunas' controversial antipathy towards San Francisco's progressive Natural Areas Program is well known, and when it was learned that her close ties to the City's most controversial land speculator, Joe O'Donoghue, was the driving force behind her policies, she was voted out of the local civic organization she had infiltrated because of it.

But of all Ms. Meskunas' histrionics, this might be the most hysterical. After all, the evidence is clear that if anyone should be running for cover, it is the coyote. The species is about half the size of your average Labrador or golden retriever. And given San Francisco's recent history, the coyote is far less vicious: the new millennium has already brought San Francisco the two most gruesome and publicised fatal dog attacks in the United States, while, according to the National Park Service's Natural Resources Chief Daphne Hatch--one of the most widely respected individuals in her field--there has never been a case in which a coyote has even bitten a person at the Presidio, Marin Headlands or anywhere else in the GGNRA. Let alone killed someone.

So if San Francisco's dogs are far more likely to harm people than coyotes, what's really gotten into Barbara's bonnet? Apparently it is the fact that the presence of coyotes forces her to reign-in her irresponsibility as a pet owner. According to excerpts from a widely distributed e-mail message sent in response to those who've complained about her hatred of San Francisco's wildlife, Ms. Meskunas claims that keeping watch of her charges is more than she can bear:

Let me begin by agreeing that my quotes in the Sunset Beacon appear to be alarmist. . . . They are accurate. . . . I do not personally believe [coyotes] should be allowed to roam free in a densely-populated city. . . . I have two dogs. Since reading and hearing about the coyote incidents, I no longer walk them off leash anywhere in the park at all . . . . I enjoy looking at the Park's buffalo herd, but I'm glad there's a fence between us.

Barbara Meskunas

The editors at San Francisco's Dog Blog believe that humility and compassion should be the cornerstones of our relationships with our animals. Unfortunately irresponsible dog owners like Ms. Meskunas remain too self-absorbed to have such a relationship, and therefore egomaniacally attempt to reshape the world to suit their whims. We hope Ms. Meskunas recognizes her responsibility to share our lands with our animals' wild cousins, but her rehabilitation should not come at taxpayers' expense. Call Supervisor Ed Jew at (415) 554-7460 or e-mail him at and demand that Ms. Meskunas be fired post haste.