Drifter the coyote

“Drifter’s life is worth more to the world than $17.” — Matt Stokes of Waterloo, Iowa

In late May, Matt Stokes found that a coyote had given birth to her pups under an old truck in his backyard shed. He just let them be.

A few weeks later, the mother moved the pups, but left one behind. The mother was likely killed.

The pup was tiny. He would not have survived, so Matt befriended him with food and water.

Then Matt got an infection in a bone in his foot. He was very sick and off work for 10 weeks. Matt writes his own story in a petition to bring Drifter home:

“Me and the pup was together after that. Soon he was coming up to me to get petted and was even crawling on my lap for comfort. He would lay with me on the floor of my gazebo or in the lawn chair, always by my side like he was watching out for me. He would greet me in the mornings with excitement — it was like he could not show me just how happy to see me he was. He had happy tail. I had to go to the hospital every morning to get the IV antibiotics to try to keep my foot and toes … We spent many days and nights together in the backyard. As he grew bigger by the day so did my love for him. Before I knew it, I was calling him Drifter and he was running up to me when I would call his name. We were officially a pack at that point.”

On Oct. 28, Drifter got outside of the fence, and Matt’s neighbor leashed Drifter and called animal control.

“Since Drifter has been picked up by animal control they have placed him in a rehab center in Independence, Iowa — Wild Thunder. In a cage. He has never been in a living environment like that. It is very cruel and inhumane. They say they are rehabbing him in order to put him into the wild returning him into the wild to be slaughtered. He will not make it a week. He is way too people friendly. He has become a domestic animal. He is a dog traveling in a coyote's body. If you were to meet him at the most he would come up to you and roll over on his back so that you could pet his belly and greet you with nothing but happiness and love. He is truly my Guardian Angel. My world has been shattered since he has been picked up.”

“Help Drifter come home. Please call the DNR, the governor's office, call your state senator. Drifter needs to come home, to the only home he has known, his natural habitat that they took him out of."

“Drifter is not a wild animal. He is a domestic dog. They have threatened me several times to euthanize the animal if I make waves. Should a seven-month-old puppy be penalized because they are mad at me? We are basically arguing over $17 as they would sell his pelt (fur). That is what they will do after they kill him. There are many issues with this. Drifter's life is worth more to me than $17. His life is worth more to the world than $17. This type of behavior is unethical and heartless. The bottom line is that no one is or was being affected by Drifter other than me and Drifter.”

“To me this feels like my child being kidnapped and put into a small room with the possibility of them being euthanized for no justifiable reason. No toys, no warmth and no love.”

Should a sacred relationship between the hearts of two different species be honored for once?

Iowa laws only promote killing, not loving or keeping a coyote.

Iowa and Wisconsin have killing contests shown here.

A news release from the Iowa DNR exults that 15,000 hunters intensify their killing of coyotes in January when many other hunting seasons close. Coyote killing has been at record highs the past few years “thanks in part to predator hunting shows on TV and because coyote fur has held its value as most other pelt prices have declined.”

“Coyote pelts go for anywhere from $15-25 per pelt depending on the quality and Iowa’s pelts are considered average.”

The state news release continues:

“Coyote hunters have fewer rules to follow. Hunters can use predator calls, hunt day or night, use high powered rifles, may hunt over bait and use groups of hunters and or hounds to round them up. There is no bag limit and coyotes can be hunted on a hunting or fur-harvester license.”

If Matt had 20 dead coyotes hanging outside on the front of his house and a $26 trapping license, that would all be legal and promoted by the state. But he is not given the fair, equal citizen right to have one beloved peaceful coyote for the price of a dead coyote skin.

Matt is petitioning the Iowa DNR to create an educational exemption so that he can take Drifter to schools, churches, universities and environmental groups to teach them about coyotes and their important role benefiting healthy ecosystems.

A thousand newspaper columns would not have the healing effect for citizens of Iowa given this extraordinary opportunity to spend an hour with a loving coyote ambassador, learning about their lives and importance during a human-caused mass extinction of half of the identified species on earth.

Drifter can be saved with an educational exemption — or a governor “pardon” (like the president and the turkeys). These rare human-wildlife humane relationships can help us change this accelerating trajectory of extinction. A miracle of the heart instead of more human-caused misery.

Let’s bring Drifter home by Christmas.

Action Alert:

For those who have loved an animal, you know the grief in losing an animal you have cared for. This is arrogance trying to force a human-raised, trusting animal to a human idea of “wild." He trusts man because he was raised by a kind man. Please sign and network the petition to bring Drifter home.


  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at (515) 281-5211 or on the governor’s Facebook page with the link to Drifter’s petition and this column.
  • Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg.
  • Iowans can find their legislator to petition here.
  • Protect the ancient trees of the Tongass National Forest — no roads. 

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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