River Cities

Miami Springs halts raccoon ‘massacre’ after PETA alert

Special to the Miami Herald

Miami Springs leaders faced a backlash at Monday’s council meeting when residents lined up demanding answers as to why dozens of raccoons at the golf course were being slaughtered.

“We don’t have 150 raccoons cavorting on one hole,” said Laura Pilgrim, a longtime resident and animal rights’ activist who spoke during open forum. “Normal density is about six raccoons per square mile.”

Pilgrim was aghast, she said, when she called the exterminator and they admitted that raccoons trapped on the golf course were not being euthanized, as the city had previously said.

“They do it with a high-caliber bullet to the head,” Pilgrim said. “We are not very respected for doing this.”

Last week, PETA posted an alert on its website urging its supporters to contact Miami Springs to halt the raccoon “massacre.”

“Horrifically, the city of Miami Springs has reportedly hired an exterminator to trap and kill dozens of raccoons who call the grounds of the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club their home,” the PETA alert states.

City leaders were so overwhelmed by social media posts, phone calls and emails from PETA supporters around the globe that the mayor said he blocked messages.

“The emails from PETA went worldwide,” Mayor Zavier Garcia said at the council meeting. “I put a filter on my email so I don’t see anything having to do with raccoons.”

Garcia said he also blocked a couple of “keywords” on his email account, as well as the names of residents.

The city did not respond to a public records request by the Herald seeking the email keyword filters or residents’ names blocked by the mayor.

“Trapping is 100 percent ineffective in solving the issue,” said Robert Uderman, who works with the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Wildlife Center. “It’s just a Band-Aid.”

Instead, Uderman pleaded with leaders to take simpler measures like not feeding feral cats “all the time” on or near the golf course. He also recommended that lids be placed on garbage cans and that city employees stop selling snacks from golf carts on the course.

As the meeting wrapped up, Garcia joked about eating the raccoons.

“We were coming up with recipes,” Garcia said. “Raccoon frita.”

Council members agreed that the issue should be handled by the city manager, who quickly announced an immediate halt to the killing of raccoons.

“I would like to take this ‘coon issue offline,” said City Manager Ron Gorland, who told officials that he seeks another solution to dealing with the “aggressive” raccoons and “costly damages.” “I don’t intend to do anymore trapping.”