Florida vulture and gator feeder swallows $53,000 fine
WEST PALM BEACH -- An Ibis woman who fed vultures, alligators and other wildlife behind her house agreed Wednesday to pay $53,000 to settle a suit brought by the community’s property owners association.
In approving the settlement, Judge Scott Kerner permanently enjoined Irma Acosta Arya from further feedings and ordered her to pay the $53,000 for attorneys’ fees, costs and fines by Feb. 14.
The Valentine’s Day payment will come as a relief to residents of the gated golf community, which borders Grassy Waters Preserve, a wildlife-filled Everglades remnant, on the western side of West Palm Beach. The association alleged that Acosta Arya’s nocturnal and daytime feedings attracted flocks of defecating, vomiting vultures, as well as raccoons, alligators and a bobcat, since 2016.
“If that was the end of it and you could guarantee that, I’d be very happy,” association president Gordon Holness said after the brief hearing Wednesday. “This is a lady with a compulsion. Hopefully, she understands the extreme penalty she’d be under if this does reoccur. You get cynical after a while.”
Acosta Arya did not attend the hearing but her son and husband did. Her attorney, James Potts Sr., told the judge she agreed to never again feed the wildlife at or near Ibis. She had not done so “for many months,” he said after the hearing, a statement the association disputes.
Kerner found her in contempt of court in December for violating a temporary injunction, after the association presented photos allegedly showing her feeding animals behind her house in recent months, on a street called Wildcat Run, on the berm leading down to the wetlands.
Nighttime photos, taken by the association security chief and a Florida Fish and Wildlife officer, provided as evidence were grainy and didn’t prove she fed the animals, Potts said. She was out of town on some of the days she was allegedly seen feeding them, he said.
Complaints about the feedings date as far back as 2016, when wildlife officers issued her a citation and relocated a gator that they found had grown oversized and too comfortable around humans.
Complaints started coming in to the property owners association again last spring, Holness said. This time the problem was vultures.
Made for comfort, not Hitchcock-like horror, Ibis Golf and Country Club is a 1,887-acre development that boasts 1,841 houses, with three golf courses designed by the Jack Nicklaus family.
Acosta Arya’s neighbors on Wildcat Run reported seeing her providing finger sandwiches and raw chicken for the wildlife. They reported seeing many empty bags of dog food in a recycling bin near her house, though she doesn’t have a dog. She said the food was for a relative’s dog.
The vultures coming in for the feedings and lingering afterward, smashed pool enclosures, destroyed outdoor furniture and grills and left the area with the stench of their bodily fluids, neighbors said.
“The smell is like a thousand rotting corpses,” neighbor Siobhan Casimano told The Palm Beach Post in August.
Acosta Arya cares about human beings and animals, Potts said Wednesday.
She moved to the area next to the preserve because she loves nature and wildlife, Potts added. Many visitors and other nonresidents feed wildlife in the area, he said.
The neighbors who complained about the feedings can rest easy, though, he said. “They’ve been able to rest easy for a while,” he insisted.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.