The Arroyo Grande City Council had a simple suggestion for the droves of residents who piled into council chambers Tuesday to hear what exactly led to the death of a beloved gray fox that stole hearts in the city:
“It is time to move forward.”
“I was, not kidding, kind of dreading tonight, thinking we were going to see the same pitchforks in this chamber that we saw online,” Councilwoman Caren Ray told the assembled crowd. “We all are hurting in different ways and have gone through stages of grief that include anger. Thank you for leaving that behind you and helping us move the city forward.”
Following massive public outcry, the city held an informational session Tuesday night to discuss what led to the trapping and euthanization of the fox that had become something of a city mascot in recent months.
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City Manager Jim Bergman stressed that the city was not contacted in regard to the trapping by the United States Department of Agriculture. The federal department intervened after receiving a complaint that the fox was interfering with a resident’s chickens.
“The city really has no expertise or jurisdiction over wild animals even if they are in city limits,” Bergman said.
Bergman encouraged residents to contact the USDA directly with questions or comments on the trapping process.
Several residents spoke of the fox’s positive impact on the city, while others denounced the extreme — and sometimes threatening — response to its death on social media.
“It was a tiny little fox that brought us a big lesson, and I just hope that we learn from it,” resident Shelly Cochran said. “I love my community, and I hated to see that division there for a while, and hopefully that heals.”
Soon after the news broke that the fox had been put down, a woman who identified herself as “Robyn Robyn” posted a Facebook video claiming to be the person who called on USDA to trap the fox.
In the video, the woman said she contacted the department because the fox had taken to climbing on their roof in the middle of the night, upsetting their dogs and trying to get into her family’s chicken and rabbit enclosures.
“I know everyone is looking for someone to blame, and a lot of people are blaming a bunch of people out there,” she said in the video. “If you need someone to blame, I’m the person to blame.”
The video has since been removed from Facebook, though that has not stopped numerous people from posting about whoever complained, with comments like, “the resident who complained should be euthanized.”
Council members at Tuesday’s meeting urged the community to refrain from pointing fingers and instead focus on moving past this.
“We should not allow someone who is trying to do the right thing to be treated that poorly,’ Councilman Tim Brown said. “It reflects badly on all of us.”
Mayor Jim Hill said this has been a learning experience for the city, one that he said will hopefully not be repeated in the future.
“We’ll know better the next time how to handle an event like this,” he said. “I think it caught everyone off guard and by surprise. The outcome was certainly unexpected.”
To get involved
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to raise funds for a permanent memorial and wildlife awareness signs along the creek in The Village. As of Wednesday, the fund had raised $2,330. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/agvillagefoxmemorialfund. A candlelight vigil will also be held Dec. 11 at 6:15 p.m.