Coyote is captured; “Cliff’s” home uncertain, however

Right: "Cliff" the coyote (Dave Hornoff/The Conservation Agency). Left: "Cliff" in a cage (John Florez).

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A coyote that’s been spotted among neighborhoods in Newport and Middletown — who has gained fans, charmed by his fearlessness with humans — has been caught, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Gail Mastrati of the DEM confirmed the capture Wednesday.

Middletown Police had planned to catch and destroy the animal after reports he’d gotten too close to or chased people and children, including coming out in the daytime. Instead, an online petition pleaded for his life to be spared.

The coyote had been previously captured in December 2015 by members of the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study and fitted with a GPS tracking collar. Since he’d been collared near Newport’s Cliff Walk, it led to him being dubbed “Cliff.”

Newport city councilman John Florez and colleagues launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money so Cliff could be relocated to a local zoo. While talks had been in the works with Buttonwood Park Zoo to take Cliff in, plans have yet to be firmed up.

A photo from Florez Wednesday morning showed Cliff lying down in a cage. From his capture, he was set to be taken to “an undisclosed location,” state veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall told the Providence Journal.

The coyote is proof that the coyote population on Aquidneck Island has exploded — a population that didn’t exist twenty years ago, Florez told Eyewitness News back in September. Authorities believe the coyotes may be thriving because people are improperly securing garbage — or intentionally feeding the wild beasts. Florez added that he was interested in addressing the best practices for trash and recyclables disposal with local residents and businesses.