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Iowa Man Fighting To Get Back His ‘Emotional Support Coyote’ From Wildlife Sanctuary


Matt Stokes of Waterloo, Iowa, is currently engaged in a legal battle with the city’s animal control and the state Departments of Agriculture, which controls domestic animal regulations, and Natural Resources, which controls wildlife regulations.

Stokes now, in an effort to reclaim his coyote, says the animal confiscated from his premises is a support animal who helped him to stay healthy over the past six months. Stokes’ relationship with the coyote began in April when he noticed a pack of the animals wandering near his land.

One of them made a den in his old shed and shortly thereafter gave birth to a litter of pups.

When the mother left with most of the pups, she left one behind.

Rather than call the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife & Fisheries Bureau, Stokes began feeding the abandoned pup. Experts recommend the public always notify their wildlife bureau so sick or abandoned animals can be taken to licensed sanctuaries and rehabilitation facilities.

According to Stokes:

“So I kept putting food and water out for him. It was two weeks he was out here by himself.”

Stokes quickly developed a friendship with the coyote pup, who he named Drifter.

Before long, Stokes said he was taking better care of himself because of the animal.

“If it was for him I would probably be missing my toe, foot or leg. Cause I got an infection of the bone. I had to make sure I could take care of myself so I could take care of him.”

Stokes told his neighbors his new “pet” was a german shepherd, a move he now admits might have been a mistake.

But meanwhile, he and the coyote were getting along famously.

“He’s never been wild, he’s always been tame. We would lay on the couch on Saturday afternoons and take a nap together. He’s my buddy.”

After about six months, Stokes received a call from the Waterloo Police informing him the coyote had been removed from his property. The animal was sent to the Wildthunder Wildlife & Animal Rehabilitation Sanctuary in Independence.

As it turns out, it’s illegal to keep a coyote or most wildlife as a pet in Iowa.

Several neighbors found the coyote wandering through the neighborhood while Stokes was away.

Stokes is now attempting to regain custody of Drifter.

The wildlife sanctuary says its goal is to ultimately reintroduce the coyote to the wild and if not possible to give it as close to a life in the wild as they can.

The sanctuary also noted it’s dangerous for coyotes to run through neighborhoods where household pets and small children can be seen as prey.

In an effort to reclaim the animal categorized as wildlife by state laws, Stokes obtained a doctor’s note certifying Drifter is an “emotional support animal that helps with depression and anxiety.”

He also plans on receiving permission from the Iowa Department of Agriculture to “house a dangerous animal” with the help of an attorney.

Animals in most states are categorized as pets including exotic ones, farm or wildlife. Who can own each type of animal, what animals can be called pets and where the animals can live is determined by state laws.

For example, a person can’t start a dairy farm in the middle of a suburban neighborhood and a person can’t call a cougar a house cat.

Wildlife in most states can only be housed in sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers.

Stokes believes bringing Drifter back to him would help both parties.

“He’ll never make it in the wild. He won’t make it a day.”

It will ultimately be left to the courts to decide where Drifter spends the rest of his life.

To experience the “call of the wild” legally, the Wild Republic Wild Calls Coyote Plush available here, plays a recording of a wild coyote when squeezed.

Wild Republic Wild Calls offers the experience of 16 different wild animals and their calls.: alligator, bison, bear, chimpanzee, coyote, elephant, elk, hippo, lion, orca, prairie dog, sea lion, sea otter, seal (harbor), tiger and wolf.

Collin Gossel

Written by Collin Gossel

Collin Gossel is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, New York, but there are nights when he looks up at the stars and wistfully thinks to himself “there’s got to be more out there…” You can catch Collin improvising new musicals every Tuesday night at the Magnet Theater’s Musical Megawatt, or follow his unfiltered thoughts on Twitter and Instagram @CollinGossel.--