It was the “O.J. Simpson trial” of city council meetings–a sensational media circus at Tega Cay City Hall, where the whole town was whispering about Public Enemy Number One:
“This week–actually, yesterday–Andrew set traps over in the Lake Ridge area,” revealed city manager Charlie Funderburk. “Today we caught Coyote #1 and Coyote #4 in between the water tower and the footbridge.” Funderburk gestured to an onscreen map like General Eisenhower explaining the plan at D-Day.
(That is, if D-Day took place at a country club. “For the golfers, this is between holes 14 and 15,” Funderburk added.)
“Andrew, if you could come to the podium–” the city manager suddenly beckoned, “–Andrew’s gonna take a few minutes, demonstrating the trap that he’s used.”
I was expecting some Crocodile Dundee-style hulk of a man to lumber from the shadows holding a frothing dog in one hand and a shotgun in the other. Instead, a relatively slender fellow with a baseball cap barely lifted his eyes from the floor.
“Okay, um, I’ve been doing the coyote management plan here for the past week and a half. It’s my opinion that many of these areas [are] actually just for foraging and hunting,” he said calmly as a dozen wildlife-weary citizens stared blankly at him for guidance.
Quickly, he shifted to the topic that was in the back of everyone’s mind: the trap.
“It’s not the cruel device that people think they are. Back in the Daniel Boone era, you had traps that had teeth and stuff like that,” he attempted to lighten the mood. “I’ll bring it up here to show you.”
The audience leaned toward the aisles to get a glimpse of the football-size death clamp–er, humane trap.
“It’s like a handcuff,” the man reassured everyone before clamping it onto his own hand without so much as wincing.
Eat your heart out, big-city council meetings. You’re voting on bike lanes? This guy just shut his own appendage in a coyote trap.
Councilmember Ryan Richard had an itch of macabre curiosity. “No coyote has chewed its leg off while being stuck in the trap, correct?”
“Correct,” the man guaranteed Richard.
But Mayor George Sheppard wasn’t buying this claim that the traps were working. And he wouldn’t stay quiet any longer.
“Okay, so you’ve caught four coyotes. We’ve had people stand at that EXACT podium telling us that the city’s being run RAMPANT with coyotes,” he thundered. “If it’s not coyotes, what is it?”
The trapper took a deep breath, having anticipated this question. “I think a lot of people–in the hysteria that’s been created by the coyote–are catching glimpses of red fox.”
At this point, a Boy Scout ran to the front of the room and yanked the microphone down to his level. “What do you do with the coyotes when you take them offsite?”
Everyone went silent. The trapper raised the mic and stared dead-on at the Scout.
“The question of the night,” he observed slowly. “I don’t want to have to kill an animal. Unfortunately, they have to be destroyed. Because I can’t discharge a firearm in city limits, I have to take it offsite. And the way I dispatch animals is with a .22 caliber. It’s a quick shot to the head–”
“Okay,” Councilmember Dottie Hersey interrupted him, clearly shaken. She clutched her throat in discomfort. “Next question.”