Mismatched predators find friendship, sanctuary near Kingman
An unlikely friendship between Riley the Coyote and Anthony the Lion has been attracting international attention at Keepers of the Wild, a wild animal sanctuary northeast of Kingman.
The animal odd couple live, play, snack and sleep together.
Anthony towers over the small, quick coyote but has never hurt her - in fact, as Jonathan Kraft, founder of Keepers, says, "she's the one in control."
The two predators came to Keepers about 21 months ago when they were very young.
Anthony was sold at an exotic animal auction, obtained illegally and was about to be smuggled into Canada when Keepers found out and were able to obtain him instead. The Arizona Game and Fish Department confiscated Riley from someone who was illegally keeping her as a pet.
Both animals were just a few weeks old when Kraft began raising them at his house. Anthony has medical issues and required treatment and recovery periods. Kraft noticed that the two animals began to form a bond.
He said Riley comforted Anthony while he recovered and both were upset any time they were separated.
Because of that bond, when it came time to find more permanent housing, the two were kept together.
Today they live in a large naturalistic habitat with rocks, trees and room to roam.
Because lions are food-aggressive, they are not fed their main meals together, but they are fed snacks together.
Kraft says Riley often steals those treats from Anthony, and the lion lets her.
The pair spends most of their time together, even sleeping together in the same den box (though there are two dens in the enclosure).
They play together, biting and pouncing but not hurting each other.
Riley will grab Anthony by the tail and "walk" him, according to Kraft.
If there were any indication that Anthony was becoming too aggressive, Riley would be removed.
The relationship has attracted the attention of several television shows, including Greg Dobbs' "World Report" and a recently broadcast Nature documentary from PBS called "Animal Odd Couples."
The pair will soon be featured on a Canadian television children's show called "Toc Toc Toc" and in a film by Tellus Films on animal sanctuaries.
According to Kraft, the Nature crew came and filmed for two days and nights from an elevated perch to obtain the footage seen in the show.
Keepers of the Wild is working on expanding their habitat enclosures.
Some animals are living inside large cages and Keepers' goal is to get all the animals in a more naturalistic environment.
However, Kraft says it can cost about $50,000 for each major habitat. Feeding the carnivores requires that the organization buy one whole cow for butchering daily.
Donations are always appreciated.
The sanctuary is open every day (weather permitting) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and $12 for children 12 and under.
Children younger than 2 are free.
It is located at mile marker 87 on Route 66, 29 miles northeast of Kingman, just past Valentine.
Call (928) 769-1800 for more information.
The PBS Nature documentary "Animal Odd Couples" can be viewed online at www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/.