Poor Journalism Putting our Wildlife at Risk

December 22, 2016  •  7 Comments

Coyote Pounce I wonder when the San Francisco Chronicle will finally stop allowing misguided, inaccurate and unscientific journalism to reach its audience. His latest article follows others in the recent past where the author, Tom Stienstra, vilifies mountain lions and coyotes as pet dog and cat killers.

In his most recent article, “Night vision camera catches coyote stalking house cat”, he captures an image of a house cat on a trail cam near his cabin. Some time later (I am sure at least many hours or else he would have jumped on the opportunity to say “seconds later” or “minutes later”) he captures an image of a coyote. THIS is his evidence that a coyote is stalking a house cat.

Days later he captures another image of a coyote, saying, “The coyote scampered left to right, its nose to the snow, following the [house cat’s] footprints, trail and scent of the house cat.”

I am amazed at the detailed behavioral conclusions he was able to confidently gain from a blurry night time trail camera image.

Then he talks of a Fish and Wildlife report on depredation permit killings of 83 mountain lions. He says that 52% of these mountain lions had cats or dogs in their stomachs. This is COMPLETELY false. I have seen this very report. There is not ONE SINGLE mention of cats or dogs in the entire report. It states domestic animals, which includes cattle, sheep, pigs, and every other non-wild animal on the planet. Falsely saying the contents were cats and dogs is convenient for his agenda and wildly inaccurate.

Lastly in the article, he states he walked a 5 mile radius and saw no daytime rabbits, one squirrel and lots of coyote tracks, making him wonder what the coyote were eating. Based on the tone of his article, I can only guess his conclusion was that because he didn’t see any animals on his walk, coyotes must be feasting on pet cats and dogs. Very scientific.

It is this type of journalism that puts our native wildlife at risk. It spreads fear based on emotion. And when this emotional fear reaches the desk of policy makers, it only means bad things for our wildlife.

Here is the link to the article. I hate sharing it but it is important for us to all see and share our displeasure with this type of writing.

For those interested in the previous article the author wrote titled, "Study finds mountain lions are feasting on house pets" in which 'house pets', dogs or cats are never mentioned in the study, here is the link to that story:

And here is the actual report from Fish and Wildlife that makes no mention to house pets, dogs or cats in its entirity.


Thank you for calling this to our attention Daniel. It's always unfortunate to read salacious pieces like this one written by Tom Stienstra. It appears that SF Chron is not allowing comments or possibly I cannot comment because I'm not a subscriber. I did post a response to the piece on their Facebook page.
Nick of Bolivia(non-registered)
100 percent agree, same as crappy Hollywood movies. Sadly everyone has watched Anaconda and now most Anacondas are killed on sight as they are deemed blood thirsty man eaters. We try to convince locals here that Anacondas can be an important asset for tourism but to no avail.
Daniel Dietrich
Thank you for this thoughtful and supportive comment. You are exactly right. This kind of writing sparks unnecessary fear in communities, causing them to act in the killing or removal of wildlife from their territories. It simply doesn't work as you say.

This author has proven the goals of his writing and the fact that the SF Chronicle gives him the platform to spread his inaccurate and misguided information is truly sad.

Scott Slocum(non-registered)
It should be noted that Stienstra's earlier article was published on 2/14/2016 and promptly debunked by the Mountain Lion Foundation on 2/15/2016. http://www.mountainlion.org/opinionstory.asp?news_id=1684

It looks like Stienstra made a small amount of additional effort for his later article (12/18/2016)--apparently by setting out a trailcam, and by going for walks to look for signs of wildlife.

Yet he refuses to learn.

Yes, he repeats the good, general advice--that's available elsewhere, in better quality--that we need to protect our pets and livestock from predators.

But before he gets to that advice, he incites a fear of predators. The kind of fear that leads communities to resort to predator removal, which frankly doesn't work, but does pay well for the trappers.

We need to do better than that: we need to keep our pets separate from wildlife in general, to remove attractants, close entry points, and haze wildlife that approach our residential areas. We need to keep our pets away from traps that are carelessly set in neighbors' yards, in undeveloped areas where our dogs would otherwise love to sniff, to keep our pets' vaccinations current, etc.

The rest of the needed advice is nowhere to be found in these articles by Stienstra. Why is that? Maybe because inciting fear, and drumming up business for the trappers, are their real goals.
Daniel Dietrich
Thank you for your comment (comment #1) Robert. The first link I have in my blog post is to the actual article, not just a single photo. Please try again and scroll down. The story is under the photo.

I included two other links for your viewing as well. The second is to his article, "Study finds mountain lions are feasting on house pets" in which 'house pets', dogs or cats are never mentioned in the study.

And here is the actual report from Fish and Wildlife that makes no mention to house pets, dogs or cats in its entirity.

I hope this helps clear things up for you.

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