For coyote pups at Naples Zoo, the teacher ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog - PHOTOS

Millie, a six-year-old Plott hound, left, gets familiar with a coyote pup in the Safari Canyon theater at the Naples Zoo while she is used as a surrogate mother for four new coyotes on August 17, 2011. Millie, adopted from Humane Society Naples, is around the coyotes all day to build their confidence and comfort when dealing with humans. The coyotes were rescued from the closed Belleview Biltmore hotel in Clearwater, Fla. this past winter, and are now being trained to be in the demonstrations at the zoo. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN // Buy this photo

Millie, a six-year-old Plott hound, left, gets familiar with a coyote pup in the Safari Canyon theater at the Naples Zoo while she is used as a surrogate mother for four new coyotes on August 17, 2011. Millie, adopted from Humane Society Naples, is around the coyotes all day to build their confidence and comfort when dealing with humans. The coyotes were rescued from the closed Belleview Biltmore hotel in Clearwater, Fla. this past winter, and are now being trained to be in the demonstrations at the zoo. Greg Kahn/Staff

If you go

Naples Zoo feature show with coyote pups

■ When: 11 a.m. daily

■ Where: Naples Zoo, 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, Naples

■ Cost: Adults, $19.95; seniors, $18.95; age 3 through 12, $12.95; age 2 and under, free

■ Info: (239) 262-5409, or www.napleszoo.org

— Scott Andrews paraded around a desert-like landscape in the center of the Safari Canyon theater at Naples Zoo.

“This animal has a reputation as a nuisance,” Andrews said to an audience of 40 at the zoo show Friday. “And in many areas of the country, they’re shot on sight.”

On his cue, a 5-month-old coyote named Gunther entered the small arena. Gunther and his two brothers and sister — Dakota, Cody and Maya — are some of the newest residents at the zoo.

So is their four-legged teacher — a hound dog from the Humane Society, Naples.

The litter of coyote pups was found earlier this year at the Belleview Biltmore in Clearwater and taken to a nearby veterinarian. Naples Zoo was selected three months ago as their permanent home.

Gunther’s still a little shy, having been in captivity only a few months now.

“Coyotes aren’t from this area,” Andrews explained as trainers tried to keep Gunther’s attention with treats. “They moved into this area because we killed all the bears, wolves and mountain lions. So they’ve filled in that gap.”

The problem in training them, zoo director David Tetzlaff said, is that coyotes don’t listen to humans. They don’t look up to the crowd for approval, or drop their front quarters and raise their rear in an attempt to coax another animal into playing.

Millie, a six-year-old Plott hound, right, gets familiar with a coyote pup in the Safari Canyon theater at the Naples Zoo while she is used as a surrogate mother for four new coyotes on August 17, 2011. Millie, adopted from Humane Society Naples, is around the coyotes all day to build their confidence and comfort when dealing with humans. The coyotes were rescued from the closed Belleview Biltmore hotel in Clearwater, Fla. this past winter, and are now being trained to be in the demonstrations at the zoo. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN // Buy this photo

Millie, a six-year-old Plott hound, right, gets familiar with a coyote pup in the Safari Canyon theater at the Naples Zoo while she is used as a surrogate mother for four new coyotes on August 17, 2011. Millie, adopted from Humane Society Naples, is around the coyotes all day to build their confidence and comfort when dealing with humans. The coyotes were rescued from the closed Belleview Biltmore hotel in Clearwater, Fla. this past winter, and are now being trained to be in the demonstrations at the zoo. Greg Kahn/Staff

So that’s why Tetzlaff adopted the 6-year-old hound mix named Millie — to teach the coyote pups how to act like canines.

“Millie is making all the difference in the world with them,” Tetzlaff said. “They’re not oriented to humans like pet dogs are. So they needed a leader. They were like students in a classroom without a teacher.”

Tetzlaff and his wife, Kelly Tetzlaff, found Millie at the Humane Society, Naples. They brought her to the zoo, let her interact with the pups and decided to adopt.

“She seemed to adjust to them fine, and even the timid ones were all over her,” Tetzlaff said.

“Millie’s mothering instincts make her a perfect match to help wild canines adjust to domestic life at the zoo,’’ said Michael Simonik, executive director of the Humane Society Naples, in a statement. “We are confident that the zoo staff will give Millie a wonderful lifelong loving home ... Millie found a second chance at life, comforting her wild cousins.”

On Friday, the pups played in their caged pen, ran like a small pack and sniffed everything they could while keeping a lookout for macaws flying overhead.

Millie bayed like a hound dog, seemingly excited by all the activity at the zoo.

This isn’t the first dog adoption for the zoo. A decade ago Tetzlaff brought in a dog to be a companion with an adult tiger.

That relationship worked well, he said. The tiger has since been relocated and the dog, Crystal, now lives with a dingo.

Though tigers spend most of their lives alone, even the least social of animals has some type of interaction in its life, Tetzlaff said.

“No animals live a totally solitary life,” Tetzlaff said. “They’re going to come into contact with others of their kind and other animals. So I’m not in favor of keeping an animal isolated.”

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