NORTHBROOK, Ill. – Ricky Gervais is calling on Cook County officials to release a coyote that has been confined for most of its life to an outdoor enclosure at a Northbrook Forest Preserve.
The actor and comedian said on Tuesday he was supporting a campaign by animal welfare group In Defense of Animals, demanding that the River Trail Nature Center release Rocky to a more appropriate facility in Colorado.
The 4-year-old coyote has lived on the northern suburban reservation since 2018 due to mistaken identity.
“Rocky shouldn’t suffer the consequences of human error – it’s not his fault people mistook him for a German Shepherd puppy,” Gervais said in a statement.
Rocky was turned over to an animal control center in Tennessee after someone mistook the coyote for a dog. By the time the mistake was discovered, the pup had “imprinted on humans” and was considered unreleasable in the wild.
Since then, Brian Winters and his team at the River Trail Nature Center have cared for Rocky as well as other animals, including injured birds. The forest reserve calls them “animal ambassadors” who help educate visitors about wildlife.
“This coyote not only requires the usual care that one would give an animal like this, but also regular human interaction. For all intents and purposes, we are his family,” said River Trail Nature Naturalist Winters. Center, deputy director. .
But Gervais said Rocky’s captivity has led to various signs of stress, including pacing, biting and licking his paws and scratching, for which he takes antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
“His physical and psychological deterioration must stop. The fact that Rocky is taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs is proof of his inhumane captivity and urgent action is needed to help him,” Gervais said.
In Defense of Animals and Chicago Alliance for Animals have called on Cook County officials to transfer Rocky to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, a facility they say will give the coyote more freedom and reduce his stress, allowing him to to be taken away medication.
“For his long-term health and well-being, Rocky should be turned over to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado,” said Brittany Michelson, captive animal campaign manager for In Defense of Animals. “Just because he interacted with humans instead of other coyotes at a young age doesn’t mean he should be denied the opportunity to socialize with members of his own species. Rocky is clearly suffering at the River Trail Nature Center and the ethical thing to do is allow him to live out his days in a sanctuary.”
On July 26, Cook County officials made the decision to expand Rocky’s enclosure in the forest preserve rather than move the coyote to the Colorado Wildlife Preserve.
A petition to move the coyote at the Colorado Sanctuary has collected more than 20,600 signatures.
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