Northbrook resident raises concerns over welfare of coyote kept at nature center
Concern for the health and welfare of a coyote residing at the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook has prompted a village resident to take legal steps to have the animal relocated to a Colorado sanctuary. Nicole Milan of Northbrook became concerned for the coyote after observing its behavior in its enclosure at the nature center, which is part of the Cook County Forest Preserve. With the assistance of an attorney, she has asked that the coyote be voluntarily surrendered to the care of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, an accredited rehabilitation center located on 10,000 acres in Keenesburg, Colorado.
"He never gets out of that cage, and it's small, he does the figure-eight pacing in there," Milan said. "There's no place for him to run and get exercise; that's not a natural environment for him at all."
The male coyote, now 4 years old, was found as a pup with its siblings under a deck in Tennessee, and was mistaken for a domesticated dog, said Carl Vogel, director of communications for the Cook County Forest Preserve. When it was found it was so young that it barely had its eyes open, and it was not until it was being prepared for adoption by an animal shelter, where it spent three weeks, that it was found to be a wild coyote, he said.
An attempt to rehabilitate the coyote for release into the wild was unsuccessful because, by that time, it had been imprinted by human contact, so it was moved to the county and placed in the care of professionals, including staff at the nature center, veterinarians and a wildlife biologist with 30 years of experience that includes work with urban coyotes, Vogel said.
"It's used to being around people," Vogel said. "You could say the staff that care for it every day and are with it are part of its pack,"
The size of the coyote's enclosure meets the requirements of the USDA and Illinois state law, and it receives regular care and attention from staff, Vogel said.
Milan acknowledges that the coyote can never be released into the wild due to its human imprint. She is concerned by the size of the enclosure, what she perceives as minimal available shelter, and the fact that the coyote is isolated.
"They're pack animals; they shouldn't be in captivity like that," Milan said.
At the Colorado sanctuary, the coyote would be rehabilitated and would be with other members of its species, she said.
A letter from Michigan attorney Alec Torigian, provided by Milan, requested response to the subject of voluntary surrender by Dec. 20, but Vogel said no action would be taken until after the holidays.