“Rocky,” a 4-year-old coyote, has been housed at the River Trail Nature Center since 2018 after being mistaken for a dog.
Eric DeGrechie , Patch Staff
NORTHBROOK, IL — Ricky Gervais has a long history of being involved with animal rights and advocacy. Earlier this week, the actor and comedian expressed his concerns about the well-being of a coyote living at the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook.
“Rocky,” a 4-year-old coyote, has lived by itself at the Cook County forest preserve since 2018, when he was originally mistaken for a dog. Gervais is backing the efforts of In Defense of Animals and the Chicago Alliance for Animals, two animal protection organizations working to get the coyote released from River Trail.
“Rocky should not suffer the consequences of human error — it’s not his fault that people mistook him for a German Shepard puppy,” Gervais said in a statement and on social media. “I stand with In Defense of Animals and demand Rocky be surrendered to an accredited sanctuary where he will be able to thrive for the rest of his life.”
In Defense of Animals, founded in 1983 in San Rafael, California, said though the coyote was saved from death, he was labeled “imprinted on humans,” thus not able to be released back into the wild. In a campaign on its website , the organization has garnered more than 20,000 supporters of its efforts to have Rocky released. The organization wants the coyote to be surrendered specifically to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.
“Rocky exhibits numerous signs of stress, such as pacing back and forth, biting and licking his paws, and scratching to alleviate itching, for which he is on antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications,” the campaign reads. “His main source of seclusion is flawed as it is in a dog kennel in the middle of the cage, with the opening facing visitors.”
River Trail, located at 3120 Milwaukee Ave., is one of six educational centers in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. The coyote is housed in a metal enclosure that is about 266 square feet. Last month, Cook County Forest Preserves released the results of a four-month-long analysis of its standards and practices with regard to the Animal Ambassador Program, for which Rocky is a part of.
In a 44-page report, the organization said it plans to build an expanded habitat this year, which will be seven to nine times the size of the current enclosure for the “happy and healthy” animal.
According to CCFP, experts who have examined the coyote said it is “well-cared for and healthy, and that transfer to a new facility to live with other coyotes could possibly and even likely cause the coyote harm.”
“I have no concerns about the health and well-being of the coyote. If it is financially feasible, the coyote’s enclosure should be expanded; however, this is not a necessity for the well-being of the coyote given the exemplary management of the coyote by the staff at the Nature Center,” said Edgar F. Garrett, of the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, at the conclusion of the report.
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