KUNA — Kate likes to curl up under the covers for the night on Seth Simpson’s bed. She likes to wrestle with Simpson’s dogs, and she wears a handsome leather collar. But Simpson said you can’t really call Kate a pet.
She’s a coyote.
Simpson, who has wanted to own a coyote since he was a child, caught Kate as she was wandering outside her den in the Idaho desert in May. She was about six weeks old. Though Kate has spent most of her 8 months at Simpson’s side, she’s still a coyote in every way, he says.
“My goal has never been to train her, to make her a pet,” Simpson, 21, says. “She’s still a coyote. She’s a wild animal that tolerates people. I can’t call her a pet.”
Simpson is no stranger to pets. As the owner of Gem State Kennels, a dog-training facility in Kuna, Simpson knows the ins and outs of canine behavior — at least, domestic canine behavior.
“Kate doesn’t have any traits similar to a dog, hardly, besides the way she looks. Even the most shy dog wants to be around people,” Simpson says. “She’ll never approach somebody and ask to be petted.”
Instead, Simpson says, Kate is hyper-alert. She’s perpetually in a “playful puppy” stage, though she’s calmed down a bit as she matures, Simpson says.
Still, she loves to be in the house, where she sits on the couch and even uses a litter box. (Simpson says he didn’t need to train Kate to use the box; he attributes it to instinct.)
And bringing Kate into the family has earned him plenty of attention, whether from friends who come by to watch Kate wrestle Simpson’s dogs or his 20,000 followers on Instagram who post question after question about Kate, telling Simpson they hope to one day have coyotes of their own.
The Idahoan and his coyote have been featured on various hunting and outdoor websites, and comedian/commentator Joe Rogan has mentioned the pair on his podcast. Simpson, who knows other people who own coyotes, says the attention is a little overblown.
“It’s nothing new, and it’s definitely not unheard of,” Simpson says.
What seems to puzzle some people the most is the duality of Simpson’s relationship with coyotes. In some photos, he holds Kate. In others, he poses next to the bodies of coyotes he’s shot and killed. It’s a conflict that Simpson says even gives him some pause.
“The more I’ve been asked (about the conflicting ideas), the more I realize it’s a hard question,” Simpson says. “Just because I do coyote hunting doesn’t mean I don’t like coyotes.”
Idaho law considers the animals pests, which means there’s no tag required to hunt them, no coyote “season” and no limit on how many a hunter can take. And because they’re indigenous to the state, there’s no law expressly forbidding ownership of one.
“I enjoy hunting coyotes because they are so hard to outsmart,” says Simpson, who adds that he’s learned a lot about the animals thanks to Kate. “I consider them to be amazing animals.”
Simpson said his background of hunting and caring for livestock that has framed coyotes in his mind in a way that he thinks many people from different backgrounds can’t understand. Moreover, most of the critics aren’t trying to understand, Simpson says, and they were around long before he had Kate.
“When it comes to hunting, hunting dogs and wild animals, there are always people who are going to disagree with what I do,” he says.
Growing up, Simpson participated in 4H and Future Farmers of America, raising livestock that he knew would end up slaughtered for food.
“As a kid, you learn not all animals are pets,” Simpson says.
That lesson applied when he took Kate home.
“It’s hard to have an emotional attachment to something that doesn’t have an attachment to you. She has a name, but she doesn’t even respond to it,” Simpson says.
He says he’ll take care of Kate for the rest of her life regardless, letting her spend her days on a zip line where she can roam the yard outside. Simpson is careful to keep her diet as close to “natural” as he can, hunting mice and rabbits for the coyote and buying scraps from friends who own a wild game butcher shop.
As much as he can, he tries to let Kate do what she enjoys, Simpson says. He hopes she’s the first in a long line of not-quite-pet coyotes, though with plans to start a family soon, he knows he’ll need to take a hiatus when kids are in the house.
For Simpson, Kate has been a childhood dream come true.