Iowa man’s best friend hap­pens to be a coy­ote

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD -

WATER­LOO, Iowa — An Iowa man is try­ing to re­gain cus­tody of a young coy­ote that he says has be­come his emo­tional sup­port an­i­mal.

“This an­i­mal is a dog in a coy­ote’s body,” said Matthew Stokes about Drifter, a young­ster who Stokes said was left by a coy­ote fam­ily that had dug a den this past spring in his back­yard on the out­skirts of Water­loo.

Drifter was an or­phaned pup “look­ing for a pack. I be­came his pack,” Stokes said.

Stokes told the Water­loo-Cedar Falls Courier that he was suf­fer­ing at the time from a bone in­fec­tion in a foot and was in dan­ger of los­ing it. He said Drifter kept him go­ing.

“I had to take care of my­self. There was no­body else there to care for him. He saved my life. And I saved his life too,” Stokes said.

But the pup was cor­ralled by a neigh­bor while roam­ing the area in Oc­to­ber and placed with a wildlife re­hab agency.

“This is not an emo­tional sup­port an­i­mal. This is a wild coy­ote that he took out of the wild and de­cided to make a pet,” said Tracy Belle, di­rec­tor of WildThun­der Wildlife and An­i­mal Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Sanc­tu­ary.

Drifter is young and seems docile, Belle said, but his adult be­hav­ior and preda­tory in­stincts have yet to kick in.

“This is not a do­mes­tic coy­ote, this is a wild an­i­mal,” Belle said. WildThun­der’s goal is to re­turn the coy­ote to the wild.

Stokes said he’s ob­tained a let­ter from his physi­cian that says Drifter is an emo­tional sup­port an­i­mal be­cause he helps Stokes with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

Stokes also is in the process of ap­ply­ing for a U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture li­cense to keep a dan­ger­ous an­i­mal, he said, and he’s also study­ing a pro­vi­sion of Iowa law that would let him keep Drifter as an ed­u­ca­tional an­i­mal.

MATT STOKES/AP

A young or­phaned coy­ote named Drifter was “look­ing for a pack. I be­came his pack,” said Matt Stokes, left.

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