Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17818
Classification: Shooting, Unlawful Trapping/Hunting
Animal: other wildlife
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Sunday, Apr 24, 2011

County: Black Hawk

Disposition: Open

Suspect(s) Unknown - We need your help!

Shooting an opossum multiple times in the face is not a humane way to co-exist with wildlife, a local rehab official said.

The pregnant animal was found alive in a trap Sunday night at 919 Birmingham Ave. with five bullet wounds, one in the shoulder and four in the face.

"This is a horrid case of animal cruelty at its worst," said Terese Evans, director of the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project.

Black Hawk Animal Control was dispatched by the Waterloo Police Department to pick up the opossum. Those living at the residence claimed they did not know the trap's owner, how long the opossum had been in there or who fired the weapon, Evans said.

On Monday, Dr. Lori Cherney surgically removed four of the bullets, believed to be from a rifle pellet gun. She was unable to get to one behind an ear. The bullets were turned over to the Waterloo police department as evidence Tuesday, and an investigation has been launched.

An ordinance prohibits, for the most part, shooting an air rifle or pellet gun within city limits.

The opossum is recovering in a cage in Evans' garage and has at least six babies in her pouch. Nursing a litter takes about two months, and babies are weaned off at the end of the third month. Evans said the babies likely are too young to survive without their mother, as they aren't good "bottle suckers."

The opossum is eating well and should gain weight before being released, Evans said. Her little ones won't crawl outside the pouch for at least another month.

"The first 48 hours she looked very rough," Evans said. "I'm pretty confident now she's going to be fine."

Trapping adult animals in spring during "baby season" can separate families or leave orphans to die, Evans said. She already has had young bunnies and squirrels.

Opossums are hunted for sport, their pelt and food in some states. Contrary to what people have been led to believe, they will not harm people or pets unless forced to defend themselves, according to the Opossum Society of the United States.

A threatened opossum will growl and show its teeth, as was the case when Evans pulled on a pair of gloves and reached into the makeshift den with a dose of medicine Wednesday. But the animal is exceptionally nonaggressive and nondestructive, she emphasized.

"Look at her," Evans said, peering in as the animal snuggled back up on a blanket. "So vicious, isn't she?"

One of the few mammals that regularly prey on shrew and moles, they also are good for the environment, as they eat insect pests, snails, slugs, rats, mice and carrion. They do not turn over trash cans, dig holes or destroy gardens, the Opossum Society says.

Evans admits her own misconceptions when she first started offering rehabilitation services.

"Now, they're my favorite mammal to work with," she said. "They're fascinating. They don't deserve the mistreatment they sometimes get."

Black Hawk Wildlife Rehab is funded by private donations and has an all-volunteer staff dedicated to helping wildlife return to natural habitats.

"It is all about compassion for sharing the earth with every living thing," Evans said. "It doesn't matter if you're a sparrow or an eagle. We don't discriminate."

If you have information on this case, please contact:
Investigations Division Captain
319-291-4336

References


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