The Boca Winds Home Owners Association had an emotional meeting tonight to discuss problems with coyotes in the neighborhood. The clubhouse lot overflowed with cars and with a few cars parked on the grass alongside Shorewind Drive.
Four employees of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attended the meeting. Two spoke to the crowd including a non-uniformed woman whose name we didn’t get, and Public Information Officer Amanda Phillips who was in uniform.
It started with a PowerPoint presentation about coyotes led by the non-uniformed employee, apparently a biologist. She and Officer Phillips then took questions from the audience.
It got contentious at times and at one point Officer Phillips ordered one of the other officers to remove a homeowner from the meeting. It is not clear at this writing how a government official would have authority to remove a homeowner from a private community clubhouse.
It was a packed house with dozens of residents.
The FWC staff insisted that coyotes do not attack humans and that parents have no reason to fear any threat to themselves or their children. Some in the audience found this hard to believe, and the staff undercut themselves a bit when they said that you shouldn’t run from coyotes because then they’ll think you’re prey.
There was talk about trapping the coyotes. At one point there was a question about shooting coyotes and one of the other officers said: “We’re not going to hunt them in Boca.” At one point Officer Phillips suggested arming children with pepper spray.
There was also a lot of discussion about not feeding wild animals, including raccoons and feral cats. These animals become a food source for the coyotes and if you cut off the food source, the coyotes will go somewhere else.
Once the Fish & Wildlife portion of the meeting was over some people filtered outside. The HOA meeting continued inside.
Officer Phillips answered a few questions from CBS 12 and from myself. In that conversation she largely agreed with some of the key points in our earlier article about whether you can shoot a coyote. An individual generally cannot walk around carrying a firearm openly so rifles and shotguns (which are nearly impossible to carry concealed) are not practical. An individual who is carrying a concealed pistol and is confronted by a coyote can shoot the coyote if he or she feels threatened. And you can shoot a coyote on your own property even if you don’t feel threatened, as long as you somehow manage to keep the bullet on your own property. But that is difficult to do in the small lots we have in most of West Boca.
It was this writer’s impression that the vast majority of the residents meeting did not like the idea of people shooting coyotes in the neighborhood. We wonder if that attitude will change if a child is harmed.
Officer Phillips was also asked if it’s realistic to expect that residents can be stopped from feeding wild animals and feral cats considering the large number of homes in the community. She had no answer for that.
As an aside the Boca Winds HOA was very difficult with the media, and not just us. CBS 12 was not allowed to enter the building. An unidentified woman approached me and ordered me to stop taking photographs. It was unclear why she would have any authority to give such an order but I was not there to get in an argument so I stopped taking pictures. We heard that a Palm Beach Post reporter was allowed in and recorded the meeting with an audio recorder but we don’t know that for sure. Because of the presence of government officials, including three visibly armed officers, exercising unclear authority to remove residents, we consider that portion of the meeting a public event. This is a matter of substantial public concern beyond Boca Winds as coyotes have been spotted in Loggers Run and other neighborhoods, and there are a number of other neighborhoods close by. Once the FWC officials left we also left.
It is our understanding that the HOA did hire a trapper previously and that was unsuccessful. We heard from other residents that the HOA was not likely to do anything significant at tonight’s meeting but will meet again to consider further action.