Native Coyote and Non-Native Kangaroo Apples

In these times of so much bad news, we republish here a delightful post from the CoyoteYipps blog of wildlife photographer and coyote advocate Janet Kessler (with permission).


I watched a coyote forage in one of these bushes. When the coyote left, we went up to examine the berries which I had never seen before. I took a tiny taste, and my friend gulped down a couple to help us determine what they were: the flavor was bitter with a tad of sweet.

When I got home, I couldn’t find the plant on the internet, so I turned to my Nextdoor site and posed the question there. They indeed came up with what it was: Kangaroo apple, as it’s called in Australia, or poroporo, as it is called in New Zealand are native to those areas, but have been naturalized into the Bay Area and can be found throughout San Francisco. AND, we should not have eaten them as they are poisonous — they belong to the nightshade family! Yikes!

Once I had the name of the plant, I looked up more about it. Interestingly, it’s flowers are hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs). They are blue-violet or white in color, and a little over an inch in size. Flowers are followed by berries of about the same size. The berries, it turns out, are poisonous only while green — they become edible once they turn orange.  Whew!

The next day I went back to see if the coyote would appear again: I wasn’t sure it was eating the fruit or possibly foraging for snails or slugs on the plant. I wondered why a coyote might eat toxic material. As I watched, I saw that the coyote eating only the orange colored fruit! Maybe the green ones were unsavory and bitter as well as toxic? Smart coyote!

One argument we often hear is that “native plants” are better as habitat. It’s very seldom true. Most animals, birds, and insects adapt to available resources – and that includes, often, non-native plants. The example above is one; another is the dramatic anise swallowtail butterfly that depends on non-native fennel. San Francisco Forest Alliance stands for Inclusive Environmentalism,  opposing xenophobia and welcoming the species that will save our changing world.

Coyote, Playing!

Sometimes, we want to bring our readers some of the joys of our parks, not just the threats to them. Besides being our green spaces and forests, they are the habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

Watch this happy coyote having fun with a ball and a stick! It’s a delightful 3 1/2-minute short film by Wildlife photographer and coyote champion, Janet Kessler, who has spent the last ten years observing and documenting coyote behavior in our parks. It was shown at the Bernal Heights Film Festival, and is linked here with permission.

When we asked if we could use it, Janet had a message for us: “These animals need their habitat left alone. They need the thickets — that are being removed and thinned by the Natural Areas Program — as safe-havens and harborage areas.”

[The Natural Areas Program has renamed itself the Natural Resources Department.]

Glen Canyon with Stairs and Coyote

This is one of our “park visitor” series – first person accounts of our parks, published with permission.


Source: Wikipedia (fair use)

It was dusk when I climbed down into Glen Canyon from the Christopher Playground. It’s been some months since I visited it last, and I was saddened by the changes stemming from SF Recreation and Parks “trails” project.

All the hillside trails have been made into staircases.  It reminded me of a drawing by Escher: they’re nearly as as difficult to walk. The risers of the box steps are high and the pitch not suited to everyone. Tiring and hard on the knees, and so it will effectively restrict access to many people.


But then a coyote came out of the bushes. I was delighted, though not surprised.  Coyotes inhabit most of the city now, and the park has coyote-spotting signs up at the Christopher playground. But what followed was a surprise (to me, anyway!)

The park is surrounded by urban areas, and an emergency vehicle was racing by on the street above, siren wailing. “Watch,” said my companion. “He’s going to howl with the siren.” And sure enough – the little coyote raised his muzzle to the sky, gave a few barks, and then howled along with the siren.

I managed to get a blurry photograph. coyote howlingA few dogs from nearby homes responded with a woof or two, but they weren’t serious. The siren-coyote duet continued until the vehicle raced away and the sound faded. The coyote sat down, convinced, I thought, that it had told off the intruder into its territory and announced who really occupied this space.

The dusk deepened, and this magical moment was broken by  flights of mosquitoes. I’ve been to Glen Canyon many times over many years, and these are a new thing for me. Wonder if it’s anything to do with the Islais Creek – and the felling of the bat trees.

Glen Canyon Coyote by Tony Holiday

 As many park visitors know, it’s sometimes possible to see coyotes in our parks. Tony Holiday, a San Francisco hiker and blogger,  was one of the lucky ones on this hike through Glen Canyon. (Go to his blog, Stairways are Heaven, for more hikes and photographs.) This photo-essay is one of our Park Visitor series – first-person accounts of visits to our San Francisco Natural Areas.  It’s abridged from the original post, Canyon Coyote,  on Stairways Are Heaven.


The #52 Excelsior runs along Elk and Diamond Heights Blvd  a short distance with a nice view of Glen Canyon’s treetops below. Such a uniquely beautiful forest down there…
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Sometimes I walk over from the Glen Park BART station, winding up on the way, usually crossing the skyway over Bosworth.
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There’s a stairway down into the Canyon from Elk St. just past all the construction still going on in the lower part (where I never go anyway). Sometimes I take the bus up to the Diamond Heights Shopping Center to descend from the west edge of Christopher Park next door, or come back up this way to get something at the Safeway after my hike, then wind down the narrow streets on the bus.
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Opalo Lane (83 steps), is just behind the Safeway and conveniently leads up to Gold Mine. tony holiday glen canyon 4344512_orig
Really like the newer stairway on the north side of the rocks with 68 steps. The extended stairway on the south side (61 steps) still has that black fencing next to it.

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So down at the Canyon floor looking for berries. Not finding many, headed for “my” less-traveled northernmost trail. tony holiday glen canyon 6940120_orig

To reach it, I have to first climb to a slightly higher trail at the end of the main Canyon tree-limb trail, then go back down again after a short distance …

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… stepping over Islais Creek  and several tree limbs  to get to the trail that runs along a school’s playing field and dead-ends in a tangle of bushes.

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No sooner had I scrambled over the first trailhead limbs than a young coyote came galloping round a curve towards me. He or she stopped short and stared for a few seconds, like “What’re you doing on this trail?” Unfortunately, by the time I’d dug my camera out, distracted by that beautiful face, off it went back the way it came. Continued picking berries for a short time, assuming it was probably curiously observing me from some off-trail spot.

After climbing back out from the trail to continue south along the higher trail that’s just below Diamond Heights stilt-houses on Turquoise, the coyote young’un had come up the same way a short distance behind me and was now out in the open. My impression is that it wanted to play. I tried for a couple of shots. Sorry it’s not very close.

tony holiday glen canyon 7881491_orig

Again, we looked at each other, then it turned tail and loped away. Too bad I wasn’t quicker the first time as it was considerably closer then. Back up the new stairway and onto a different trail (36 steps) …

tony holiday glen canyon 9536833_orig

… instead of the longer stairway/trail, 86 or so steps down from Christopher Park, that I descended earlier (from the view bench at the top).

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The shorter one will take you to the through Canyon-top trail that starts at the west edge of Christopher Park and continues out to Turquoise, Amber, and the Coralino stairway.


Tony Holiday likes meandering around on San Francisco’s park trails and public stairways, sometimes taking photos, and enjoying nature and the outdoors.

Coyote Pups, Our Pets, and Us – Getting Along

As frequent visitors to our urban wildlands and parks probably know already, coyotes are part of our city’s wildlife. They travel over considerable distances alone or in family groups, so you could actually see them anywhere (though wildlands where they can hunt gophers are probably the best bet).  And – this is coyote pupping season. Pups have already been seen in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere.

Coyote pups.  Janet Kessler

Coyote pups. Janet Kessler


It might be helpful to know as much as possible about what behavior to expect from them, especially in relation to ourselves and pets. For a one-stop informational video presentation — the most up-to-date there is — please view CoyoteCoexistence.Com‘s new video,  Coyotes As Neighbors: Focus On Facts.  Here’s the video:

If you have specific questions or issues, you may contact them at coyotecoexistence at for one-on-one assistance.

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Coyote Pups Alert. Janet Kessler