It’s almost April, which makes this the perfect time to look back at what happened in…February! The shortest month of the year was highly productive: it included our first ever State of the City Council Meetings Address (to a joint session of Congress, no less!), our first Australian city council meeting, and a tale of the councilman who saved San José.
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.”
Looking like a tough-as-nails judge and sounding every bit like the cattle rancher he is, Harrison Mayor Dan Sherrell jabbed his pen into his notes.
“I had a request to move somebody up from the agenda. I’m gonna put Mr. Matt Bell on there, but if he’s up there too long–” the mayor brandished a hefty wooden gavel and gave a sinister smirk–“mallet comes down in my hand.”
Watch your fingers and toes. His Honor runs a tight, highly punitive ship.
“I approach the council to discuss a variance we’re seeking for the Ride the Ozarks Rally,” Bell beseeched the village elders, “so we can set up a designated area to provide receptacles for the smokers. We are trying to keep our park clean.”
But Councilman Brian Herring didn’t care for this un-American segregation of nicotine. “I’ve heard from several citizens and only one has been for it. I’m for the motorcycle rally but I’m not for the variance.” He shook his head. “So…that’s it.”
Mayor Sherrell leaned forward. “All in favor–”
“I want a roll call,” snapped Councilman Herring. He got it–and lost 6-2.
“Okay,” the mayor clucked with a twinkle in his eye. “I will open it to the floor. Yes sir, Mr. Johnson?”
A balding, red-faced man in the front row stood up. He clutched a sheaf of papers in his left hand.
“Earlier this summer, I was surprised to see a coyote walking down the street I live on. As the summer went on, I saw more coyotes during the daylight hours. I’m afraid to leave my dogs in my fenced-in backyard!”
He looked dead-on at the man in charge. “Mr. Mayor, you said I should talk with my neighbors to see if there is a problem. Well, I have spoken with 103 of my closest and dearest neighbors.” The council guffawed.
“Most of these people have seen coyotes. When I googled ‘coyote attacks on humans,’ one of the first things is a nice 23-page article.” He yanked it out from his packet and passed it along the dais.
“What has been done to remove coyotes out of this neighborhood?”
The mayor pounced like a mongoose on a chicken’s neck.
“I’ll tell you EXACTLY what’s been done. Animal Control is setting cage traps out there. We’re catching an abundance of skunk and groundhogs and possums.”
Half of the room snickered. The mayor stared menacingly at his challenger, gripping the 23-page article. “Since you’re good with all this stuff, if YOU google how to catch ’em…”
He calmed himself and continued. “We have one man that’s willing maybe to trap. He has a regular job, but he said he’ll be willing to do it. We will have to be very, very careful about doing this.”
What “regular job” does this coyote-trapper have? Snake wrangler? Bear tranquilizer? Not many guys sit at a desk all day and moonlight as a wildlife vigilante.
This is exactly what made Councilman Mitch Magness nervous. “Would any of the public…like a child in the area, be-”
“That’s why I’m saying, we’re gonna have to be very careful,” Mayor Sherrell retorted ominously, folding his hands on the desk. Then he leaned back and broke into a gaping smile.
“I’m familiar with coyotes, believe it or not. But how I’d take care of ’em is not probably the way you’ll take care of them.”