A coyote at the River Trail Nature Center in suburban Northbrook has become the source of debate between the Cook County Forest Preserve District and critics who demand the wild animal be moved to a sanctuary in Colorado.
The coyote became imprinted on humans after it became separated from its parents in 2018, according to the forest preserve district.
“Once he came to live here, it has been us, our staff. We have become his family,” said Brian Winters, assistant director of the River Trails Nature Center.
But some say the coyote’s enclosure is too small and the animal often paces.
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“Constant exposure to the public with no opportunity to get away is a source of stress which leads to abnormal behaviors exhibited by this animal, and also leads to increased susceptibility to infection, and constant stress suppresses the immune system,” said veterinarian Valerie Johnson of Michigan State University.
Northbrook resident Nicole Milan started a petition to raise awareness of the coyote’s living situation, which has been signed by more than 2,300 people, and she and others are calling for it to be moved to a wild animal sanctuary in Colorado.
“Humans got him into this situation and humans can get him out of this situation,” Milan said. “He is an innocent animal in all of this and he has the ability to be re-homed.”
A spokesperson for the forest preserve district said the coyote is well-fed, well-housed and treated promptly for medical concerns.
“Our River Trail staff take care of this animal every day and know its habits and understand its behaviors,” the spokesperson said.
The staff at the nature center also said the coyote receives daily enrichment and the enclosure has passed federal inspection.
“He has energy. He needs to move around. He enjoys investigating stuff that we add to his cage now and then to keep things interesting. He also reacts to the presence of people,” Winters said.
Both sides of the issue were presented during the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s board meeting Tuesday. There has been no decision yet on what to do with the animal.