FLORIDA — It’s a hard video for an animal lover to watch: An apparently scared raccoon skitters along the bow of a boat as a man shouts at him, threatening to push him into the water, until the animal finally slips off the edge. A subsequent video shows the raccoon trying to stay afloat in the water.
Florida lawyer Thomas Cope posted the videos on Facebook, where they went viral—and led to outrage.
Cope says the raccoon stowed away on the boat, only coming out when it was 20 miles offshore. The animal is presumed to have died at sea, and some viewers of the video called the whole thing “disgusting” and “despicable,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Cope has since apologized, and the state has launched an investigation.
“The animal was running around the boat hissing and growling, making it impossible for me or my friend to drive the boat,” Cope said in a statement. “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.”
He added that he felt bad for the raccoon, though he can be heard in the video telling it “so long, sucker” as it fell into the water and he referred to it as a “trash panda” in the post caption, per the Orlando Weekly.
A source tells WFLA that Cope originally posted the videos to a private group for boaters, but they were shared widely outside of that group.
The incident was reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which says anyone with further information should call the state’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922. (These raccoons weren’t rabid, just tipsy.)