OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — An Oklahoma family is frustrated and heartbroken after the Oklahoma Wildlife Department told them they had two choices: return a coyote they’ve raised since he was a puppy in the wild or have him put down.
“They might be predatory hunters, but she’s not a predator,” Morgan Hensley said. “It’s about how you raise them and things like that.”
Hensley told KFOR that she forms a close bond with their coyote, Jersey, which she says is domesticated.
“[She] and I would sit on the stairs and share donut holes,” Hensley said.
For 10 months, Hensley’s father, Carl Sandifer, owner of the Rattlesnake and Venom Museum, raised Jersey and other wildlife.
“People came to see. They wanted to see her, especially since she had a connection with autistic children. It was really amazing how it happened,” said Carl Sandifer.
Under Carl’s wildlife breeder license, he can legally breed Jersey.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation told KFOR that it’s not Sandifer’s license that’s the problem, it’s where Jersey is from.
Officials told KFOR that it was obtained illegally.
“So a frequent visitor to the museum said, ‘Hey, I found this coyote. Would you guys like it? Said Sandifer.
The lack of a commercial breeding license for the visitor and the lack of proper Jersey documentation are two reasons the Department of Wildlife told KFOR Jersey he could not remain in the care of the family.
According to an email obtained by Hensely, wildlife officials have given the family a choice: release Jersey into the wild or she will be shot.
“I don’t believe in killing an animal just because it’s an animal. She’s not a threat. She is in no way dangerous,” Hensley said.
“I’m confused with the law,” Sandifer said. “But it says in there, you know, there’s an exception though, unless the wildlife department deems she might be here.”
KFOR questioned the Wildlife Department about this exception.
“I mean, they gave us an exception before,” Hensley said.
Col. Nathan Erdman of the Wildlife Department said KFOR coyotes are specifically excluded from a list of animals that can be domesticated, and that is the law.
According to Oklahoma statutes,
By domestic animal, we mean any animal kept for pleasure or for utility, which has become adapted to life in association with and use by human beings, and should not include animals normally found in the wildunless expressly designated by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The following wildlife species are exempt from import and export permits, commercial wildlife breeders permits, non-commercial wildlife breeders permits and commercial hunting area permit requirements:
- Alpacas, guanacos and vicunas
- Cats (except native cats and bears)
- Dogs (except coyotes and native foxes)
- Exotic tropical fish
- Ferrets (except black-footed, Mustela nigripes)
- Guinea pigs
- Horse, donkeys and mules
- Mice (except species normally found in the wild)
- Native invertebrates (except crayfish and all freshwater mussels, including zebra mussel and Asian clam)
- Migratory waterfowl not listed as protected by Federal Regulation 50
- Pigs except javelins
- Rabbits (except cottontail rabbits, hares and swamp rabbits, and other such species normally found in nature)
- Rats (except species normally found in nature)
- Saltwater crustaceans and molluscs (import for human consumption)
- Sheep (except dall sheep and bighorn sheep, Ovis sp.)
- Turkeys (except Rio Grande, Eastern, Merriam and Osceola or any subspecies)
- sugar gliders
- Fennec fox
“Coyotes are on the list as not being a pet. There is nothing to investigate, they have no documentation showing where the coyote came from from a legal source (which cannot be from nature), so they can’t keep it under their license,” Col. Erdman said in a statement. “These are the laws we discuss when answering your questions. This is not our opinion, we report just what the laws say on the matter. If you have any other questions that are not covered by the above laws, please let me know.”
“She’s not a giant grizzly bear. She’s not a mountain lion,” Sandifer said. “She’s not something like that that needs a big cage.”
Hensley told KFOR that Jersey had been taken to an animal sanctuary, but the Wildlife Department was not comfortable with the situation.
“We are trusted to take care of an alligator, but not a coyote. Why mammal versus reptile? said Hensley. “It’s legal to fly on a plane in Oklahoma and shoot a coyote, but it’s wrong to keep it in public and educate them.”
According to Hensley, the animal is now with a wildlife rehabilitator who has determined that she cannot be rehabilitated and released.
She told News 4 that the state was ordering her to be dropped off.
The facility has neither confirmed nor denied if this Jersey was there or if the animal was put down.
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