Ricky Gervais Joins Animal Rights Group To Call To Move Coyote To Colorado Wildlife Sanctuary | Way of life
CHICAGO — The push to move a coyote from its cage in a Cook County forest preserve to a wildlife sanctuary recently got celebrity endorsement from comedian Ricky Gervais.
The British stand-up has joined international animal rights group In Defense of Animals in calling for Rocky the coyote to be moved from his ‘inhumane’ captivity at the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado .
“I support In Defense of Animals and demand that Rocky be returned to an accredited sanctuary where he can thrive for the rest of his life,” Gervais said in a press release from the band.
The Cook County Forest Preserve District does not plan to do so. Instead, after conducting a review of its animal captivity program, district officials announced last month that they would build a larger, more naturalistic coyote enclosure this year.
The animal was mistaken for a dog when he was just a puppy and was first raised in a shelter in Tennessee. A rehabilitator concluded that the coyote had been imprinted on humans, meaning it had become so used to being cared for that it could not survive in the wild.
The coyote was moved to a forest reserve cage measuring about 10 feet by 22 feet, where it remained for four years.
Critics objected that the animal sometimes paced continuously, bit its paws and scratched itself, and received medication, as signs of stress were noted. Veterinarians who testified on behalf of the cause said he would be better off in a more natural environment with other coyotes.
The forest reserve veterinarian and two external veterinarians assessed the animal as healthy and well cared for. They felt it would be endangered if moved and put with other coyotes, noting that while most wild coyotes live in pairs or packs, about one in three live alone.
The coyote was put on anti-anxiety medication only for specific stressful instances, such as the vet visit or the Fourth of July, officials said.
Officials examined the site of the forest reserve to find out where and how to locate the enclosure. They compile best practices from scientific papers, other facilities, and guidelines from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, to add more natural elements.
The Forest Reserve Board of Commissioners never voted on the matter, but received a report of the staff’s findings and plans.
“We have taken this issue very seriously and have been doing research to find out what we can do better and make the right choices for the welfare of the coyote,” wrote forest reserve spokesman Carl Vogel.
Documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune showed that a naturalist at the forest preserve objected to the captivity of another coyote named Kaia, previously held outside the Trailside Museum of Natural History in River Forest.
In an email to other forest reserve officials in 2020, Jeanette Louis wrote, “Former female coyote Kaia should have been reconditioned and released once it was determined her sight was impaired. very good. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Knowing how isolated she was from everyone for most of her life…combined with knowing she was a perfectly healthy coyote (not to mention extremely intelligent) makes me even more supportive of release an animal whenever possible.
Sometime prior to this email, vandals damaged Kaia’s cage and she escaped, allegedly playing with a dog in the neighborhood.
In response, Vogel said the district veterinarians and animal care committee never considered releasing this coyote because he had also been socialized with humans from a young age and could not live safely. in nature. Coyotes can kill small pets, and human encounters are potentially dangerous to humans and animals.
The Forest Reserves report included a general review of its animal captivity program. The neighborhood has exhibited animals since the 1940s. They are now displayed at six nature centers, at an annual cost of $63,000, with the stated goal of creating empathy and appreciation for native wildlife.
According to the Forest Preserve report, two nature centers in the area also keep coyotes in captivity: the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest and the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton.
The report found that Lincoln Park Zoo and many other facilities have evolved their programs to be based on what is best for the animal rather than the human.
As a result, the district created a set of goals to improve its Animal Ambassador program. For example, the District Review said animals should have a choice whether or not to participate in a demonstration for the public.
Forest reserves will also stop acquiring new animals until authorities assess its process for doing so, which is expected to be done in early 2023.