This coyote was stealing newspapers, so here's what the delivery man did

February 1, 2018, 5:42 p.m.

It's not uncommon to hear about city residents running into conflicts with urban coyotes. Usually it's because of run-ins with pets, or coyotes getting too close for comfort around people in parks or yards. But sometimes a conflict arises for more surprising reasons.

In one San Francisco neighborhood, trouble popped up for the newspaper delivery man when his papers started going missing.

He started getting calls from upset clients that their paper wasn't being delivered, but he knew full well he had delivered one to their doorstep. Shortly after the calls began, he discovered something completely unexpected. One morning he watched as the neighborhood coyote played with a newspaper on a grassy hillside. He videoed her tossing the paper up in the air, sliding down the hillside on it, and running around with pages flapping from her mouth. It turns out she was repeatedly stealing papers off of certain porches shortly after he delivered them, just to play!

Rather than get mad, the delivery man's solution was to throw out a paper just for her, launching it onto the grassy hillside she frequented before she had a chance to nip one from a front porch. She had her morning toy, and he stayed out of trouble with his clients.

I met the delivery man by chance early one morning while watching the coyote, and I listened to his story. To prove its truth — and maintain the morning ritual — the delivery man threw a paper out on the grass. Sure enough, the coyote came running down the hill to play with it. This photograph of the paper-thieving coyote was taken with a remote camera shortly after watching the coyote's exuberant play session on that first morning.

San Francisco's coyotes are only just now being studied, and a small population living in the Presidio have been radio-collared for monitoring. Many other cities also have new or ongoing studies of urban coyotes. As the wily canids become permanent residents of cities across the continent, learning more about them is a critical step in finding solutions to coexisting with them.

For one newspaper man, at least, that coexistence comes at an affordable price: an extra copy of the daily.