Success! Cliff, the Friendly Coyote, Won’t Be Killed
Why do people like to feed wild animals? One answer might be that the critters are cute and they seem hungry, or perhaps it’s because it makes people feel good to “help” the animals. But feeding wild animals actually does more harm than good.
Some residents of Middletown, Rhode Island, have been feeding Cliff the coyote to the point that he’s grown acclimated to humans, especially in one neighborhood, where he’s a regular visitor.
That’s a problem.
Dr. Numi Mitchell, of the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study explained to NBC 10 news: “He might be approached by a child and people are very concerned something might happen, and, of course, he’s a wild animal.”
Middleton Police Chief Anthony Pesare initially decided that the only way to solve the potential problem was to kill Cliff.
Care2 member Nicole Ingham was outraged when she heard about the Police Chief’s decision and decided to create a Care2 petition. “Cliff has done nothing wrong. Why is this even being allowed?” she wrote.
Care2 Petition: Don’t Euthanize Cliff
In her petition, Ingham urged Pesare and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo not to euthanize Cliff.
Care2 members stepped up to support Ingham, and her petition quickly garnered more than 38,700 signatures. Local news channel NBC 10 covered Cliff’s story and Ingham’s petition, noting that the Care2 petition had “gone viral.”
Just a few days later, Chief Anthony Pesare announced that Cliff would not be put to death, but instead Pesare, along with Newport City Councilman John Florez, would work to place the coyote in a zoo.
Dr. Scott Marshall, a state veterinarian, didn’t think placing Cliff in a zoo was such a good idea. “Wild animals that are relocated into a zoo don’t generally assimilate very well, they tend to be stressed out,” said Marshall.
So a different solution was in order, and on the morning of October 5, Cliff was tranquilized and moved to another part of Rhode Island, an undisclosed area, but one with a smaller population.
A Cautionary Tale
Cliff’s story is a cautionary one for anyone tempted to feed wild animals.
The coyote has a tracking device, which reveals that he stops for food at specific houses as well as dumpsters, restaurants and fish piers. The normal diet for a coyote, Dr. Mitchell explained, should be geese, rabbits and deer, but this animal has been getting most of his food from humans. As she put it, “When you start bringing them into urban settings, it’s never a happy ending.”
This time, though, thanks to Nicole Ingham, there is a happy ending for Cliff.
Feeding wild animals is never a good idea, because it makes those animals lose their natural fear of people, which can lead to them becoming a safety risk.
I witnessed this first-hand when I returned from a backpacking trip to Mount Whitney in California last year, and at least five of the cars parked at the trailhead had been broken into by black bears in search of food; they’ve learned that it’s easier to get their next meal that way, rather than having to forage.
There are other reasons it’s not a good idea to feed wildlife: “people food” isn’t nutritious enough for animals, so it can cause health problems, and wild animals that depend on people for food may also cause injuries or spread disease.
If Nicole Ingham had not created her petition and gathered all those signatures, Cliff’s story may have had a different ending.
Image credit: Dave Hornoff/ The Conservation Agency, used with permission