A viral video showing a man shooing a raccoon off a boat — leading to the animal's presumed death — has triggered an investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Clearwater lawyer Thomas Cope posted the video to Facebook, where it was copied and then spread by multiple social media accounts. Cope has since issued an apology for his actions.
Watch the video here: Man shoos raccoon off of boat and into the water
The video shows a man, presumably Cope, yelling at a raccoon that he said had hidden away on the boat for several hours before revealing it's presence after the boat was "well offshore" — or about 20 miles out, he wrote on Facebook.
"Get off my f------ boat," the man yelled the raccoon, which was scurrying around the bow. "We're just going to have to push him off."
The man shouted more while approaching it. Then the raccoon appeared to fall off the boat. The video zoomed in on the raccoon paddling in the water, trying to stay afloat.
"So long, sucker," the man said.
The video was quickly condemned by viewers on social media who called the episode "disgusting" and "despicable."
Cope issued a statement apologizing for his actions and added that he wished there was some way he could have returned to shore to release the raccoon.
"The animal was running around the boat hissing and growling, making it impossible for me or my friend to drive the boat," Cope wrote. "Knowing raccoons can be rabid and unpredictable, the only realistic option we could think of in the moment was to get the raccoon off the boat."
Cope said he felt bad for the animal and was sorry for his actions.
The state's wildlife agency was alerted to the video on May 8. The agency said it is taking the incident "very seriously" and asked anyone who has additional information about what happened to call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
"It is still too early to speculate as to what violations took place in this incident," the statement said. "However, the FWC would like to state that we believe these vile acts of animal cruelty have no place in our state or anywhere else."
Contact Caitlin Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.