Right next to the park where a playful little gray fox was first photographed wandering among the roosters, more than 50 community members gathered to pay tribute to their fallen mascot.
“It didn’t deserve what happened to it,” one woman clutching a small tea light said, with a somber shake of her head.
Nearby, a small stuffed animal fox was carefully arranged between candles on the floor of the Arroyo Grande Centennial Park gazebo, where dozens of adults, children and even dogs gathered for a candlelight vigil Monday.
The furry critter — known to most as “Foxy,” though its name varies depending on who you ask — was euthanized last month after a resident lodged a complaint with the USDA that the animal was interfering with pets, and that it had become too acclimated to humans.
Several members of the community expressed outrage at the decision to kill it, and questioned what could have been done differently to avoid a tragic end to the animal that had become something of a mascot for the South County town.
“Now we have to make sure that, from the smallest kids, that they understand what can happen, and what a tragedy it was, what happened,” resident Vivian Krug said Monday night. “It shouldn’t have happened. I still cry watching the videos. This little fox was playing ball right here, just a few weeks ago with other dogs. It thought it was a dog.”
The fox was first spotted in town in September, and in the following months it became a local sensation as people flocked to the area trying to spot “Foxy.” It could often be seen climbing in the trees, following roosters or attempting to play with passing dogs.
Plans are in the works for a permanent memorial at the site, as well as a slate of educational signs that would caution people to not feed or interact with wildlife.
As of Monday, the Go Fund Me crowdfunding account for those projects had raised $3,365 of its $15,000 goal.
“We can’t let it happen again, and the only way to do that is educational signs, going to schools, starting with little kids and letting them know what they should do and should not do,” Krug said. “It takes all of us to do that.”
Resident Frank Schiro, who also helped organize the campaign, went a step further.
“It takes a Village,” he said.