Controversy surrounds domesticated coyote living caged outside in Cook County

As the temperatures drop, a coyote controversy heats up in a Cook County forest preserve.

On Tuesday, some residents and their veterinary experts will try to convince the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Board of Commissioners to move a coyote.

For most of its life, the 4-year-old coyote has lived in an outdoor enclosure at the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook. Along with some injured birds, the Forest Preserve calls them "ambassador animals" that teach us about wildlife.

But some Northbrook residents call the coyote’s cage "animal cruelty."

"Oh my goodness. It was heartbreaking. This is cruel. I wouldn't keep my own dog in a cage like this," said Nicole Milan.

"There's nothing natural about a coyote in a cage for life. It's not a life, it's cruelty," added Irene Sewell.

This all stems from a case of mistaken identity. When the coyote was born in Tennessee, someone thought it was a dog. By the time the mistake was discovered, the pup had imprinted on humans so life in the wild was not possible.

Since then, Brian Winters and his team at the nature center have cared for the animal.

"This coyote doesn't just require the usual care that one would give to an animal like this, but also regular human interaction. For all intents and purposes, we are his family," said Winters, River Trail Nature Center Naturalist, Assistant Director.

The Cook County Forest Preserve says the enclosure meets requirements of the USDA.

"Just because current laws are in place condoning this, things need to be changed. This is unacceptable. Absolutely heartbreaking," said Milan.


Milan is also concerned that it’s just too cold. Water bowls visible in other animal cages were frozen over Monday morning.

But Brian Winters counters that coyotes are built for Illinois weather.

"An animal that has evolved over millions of years to live in a cold climate like this. He's fine," said Winters.

A petition to move the animal to a wild animal sanctuary in Colorado has more than 2,000 signatures.

Irene Sewell has visited and says Illinois taxpayers wouldn't pay a cent.

"He’d be able to roam in a natural environment and be with other coyotes, he'd be able to be a coyote," said Sewell.

On Tuesday morning, they'll try to convince the Forest Preserve Board to make the move during a public meeting.