Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation tells family to release pet coyote or leave it

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma family is frustrated and heartbroken after the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife told them they had two options: return a coyote they raised from a pup to the wild or put it down.

“They may be predatory hunters, but she is not a predator,” said Morgan Hensley. “It’s about how you raise them and things like that.”

Hensley told KFOR that he was gaining a close bond with his coyote, Jersey, who he 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, has been raising Jersey and other wildlife.

jersey the coyote
jersey the coyote

“People would come and see. They wanted to see her, especially she had a bond with autistic children. It was very surprising how it happened,” said Carl Sandifer.

Under Carl’s wildlife breeder’s license, he can legally breed Jerseys.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation told KFOR that the problem is not Sandifer’s license, but the Jersey origin.

Officials told KFOR that it was obtained illegally.

“So a frequent visitor to the museum said, ‘Hey, I found this coyote. Would they want it?’” Sandifer said.

The visitor’s lack of a commercial breeder’s license and Jersey’s lack of proper documentation are two reasons the Department of Wildlife told KFOR Jersey could not remain in family care.

According to an email obtained by Hensely, wildlife officials gave the family a choice: release Jersey into the wild or they will euthanize her.

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“I don’t believe in killing an animal just because it’s an animal. She is not a threat. She is not dangerous in any way,” Hensley said.

“I’m confused with the law,” Sandifer said. “But there she says, you know, there’s an exception if, unless the wildlife department thinks she might be here.”

KFOR asked the Department of Wildlife about that exception.

“I mean, we’ve been given an exception before,” Hensley said.

Colonel Nathan Erdman of the Department of Wildlife told KFOR that coyotes are specifically excluded from a list of animals that can be domesticated, and it is the law.

According to the Oklahoma Statutes,

Domesticated animal means any animal kept for pleasure or utility, that has been adapted to life in association with and for the use of human beings, and will not include animals that can normally be found in the wildUnless specifically designated by the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission.


The The following wildlife species are exempt of import and export permits, commercial wildlife breeder licenses, non-commercial wildlife breeder licenses, and commercial hunting area license requirements:

  1. Alpacas, guanacos and vicuans
  2. Bison
  3. camels
  4. Cats (except native cats and bears)
  5. Cows
  6. chickens
  7. Chinchillas.
  8. Dogs (except coyotes and native foxes)
  9. exotic tropical fish
  10. Ferrets (except black-footed Mustela nigripes)
  11. gerbils
  12. goats
  13. Guinea pigs
  14. hamsters
  15. hedgehogs
  16. Horse, donkeys and mules
  17. calls
  18. Mice (except those species normally found in nature)
  19. Native invertebrates (except crayfish and all freshwater mussels, including zebra mussels and Asiatic clams)
  20. Peacock
  21. pigeons
  22. Migratory waterfowl not listed as protected by Federal Regulation 50
  23. Pigs except javelins
  24. Rabbits (except cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits and swamp rabbits, and other similar species normally found in the wild)
  25. Rats (except those species normally found in nature)
  26. Saltwater crustaceans and molluscs (import for human consumption)
  27. Sheep (except bighorn sheep and bighorn sheep, Ovis sp.)
  28. Turkeys (except Rio Grande, Eastern, Merriam and Osceola or any subspecies)
  29. zebras
  30. gerboa
  31. sugar gliders
  32. civic
  33. wallaby
  34. Kangaroo
  35. fennec fox
  36. Coatimundi
  37. primates

“Coyotes are on the list for not being a domesticated animal. There is nothing to investigate, they have no documentation showing where the coyote came from a legal source (which cannot be from the wild), so they cannot keep it under their license,” said Col. Erdman in a statement. “Those are the laws we are discussing when answering your questions. It is not our opinion, we are simply reporting what the laws say about it. If you have any further questions that are not covered by the above laws, please let me know. “

“She is not a giant grizzly bear. She is not a cougar,” Sandifer said. “She’s not something like she would need a big cage.”

Hensley told KFOR that Jersey was taken to an animal sanctuary, but the Department of Wildlife was uncomfortable with the situation.

“We are trusted to care for an alligator, but not a coyote. Why mammal versus reptile? Hensley said. “It’s legal to fly on a plane in Oklahoma and shoot a coyote, but it’s not okay to keep it public and educate them.”

According to Hensley, the pet is now at a wildlife rehabilitator who has determined that she cannot be rehabilitated and released.

She told News 4 that the state is ordering her to be euthanized.

The facility did not confirm or deny if that Jersey was there or if the animal was euthanized.