A young, grey fox whose life was cut short by federal officials who said it could not be relocated was the center of discussion at an Arroyo Grande City Council meeting.
City Manager Jim Bergman briefed the council on the events surrounding the euthanization of the fox and the agencies involved in the process. He emphasized that the city was not consulted and didn’t have a role in what happened.
The little fox captured the hearts of local residents who shared sightings of the playful creature on Facebook and in pictures around the Village of Arroyo Grande. At one point, a citizen contacted federal officials about relocating the fox. Instead, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division authorized a federal trapper to capture and euthanize the animal.
Federal officials later asserted that the animal could not be relocated and live successfully on its own because it had become accustomed to humans and was no longer wild. The killing of the fox caused outrage throughout the community.
The council made time available on the agenda Nov. 28 for concerned citizens to express their thoughts.
“As citizens when we have a problem, in this case the fox, and we need help… don’t call the feds,” said resident Robert Olson. “Don’t call the state. Don’t call the county. The further down you go the more sensitive and realistic and responsive help you’re going to get. They may not be able to solve your problem, in this case city staff. But they can take that information and do some research. The lesson to me is that when we have a problem that needs some government intervention… start with local government. They are the most responsive and will do the best to help us.”
An informal vigil is reportedly in the works for Dec. 11. Bergman said the city would ordinarily require a permit for that kind of activity, but as the event has no official organizer they will allow it to occur regardless.
Vivian Krug Cotton started a Facebook page “Remembering Our Village Fox” and a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/agvillagefoxmemorialfund) to raise money to pay for educational signs and a memorial. As of Monday, nearly $3,000 was raised through online pledges with a goal of $15,000. Krug said the money would help pay for signs along the creek, educating people about interacting with wildlife.
“We failed this fox,” she told the City Council.
Several speakers urged the council to take action to avoid a similar situation occurring in the future. Some even suggested an ordinance to prohibit federal officials from intervening in the city.
One by one the council members shared their frustration with the action that was taken, but declined to consider an ordinance. The council was further informed by city staff that federal authority can pre-empt local jurisdictions in cases like these.
“I do think the signs are a good idea,” Councilmember Kristen Barneich said. “I do see kids chasing the chickens in the Village. It’s infuriating to see parents let kids chase the chickens; it’s cruel. So maybe we can incorporate that into the signs – keeping wildlife wild, don’t feed the animals.”
Barneich said she was torn as to whether the city should enact an ordinance relating to the intervention of federal agencies.
Mayor Pro Tem Tim Brown agreed.
“As a council we are always adding to city staff’s plate… but there is a limit to what they physically and humanly can do,” Brown said. “I think, in my personal opinion, this is one of those situations. It was unfortunate; I wish it hadn’t happened. I don’t think that this is an issue that takes more governmental regulation from a city perspective.”
photos by PhotoByVivian.com