Apology not excepted. Attorney Thomas Cope has apologized amid an investigation into a video posted to his social media account last week showing him allegedly shoo a snarling stowaway raccoon off his boat to its presumed death while 20 miles offshore.
The raccoon appeared growling and hissing on Clearwater attorney Thomas Cope’s boat, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) out in the Gulf of Mexico, Cope told the Tampa Bay Times.
Cope posted the video to Facebook showing the raccoon falling off the boat into the water, as a man’s voice can be heard saying, ‘So long, sucker.’
Cope later issued an apology for his actions, saying he wished he could have returned the animal to shore but that it was ‘running around the boat hissing and growling.’
Raccoons can swim, and the animal is shown treading water in the video, but it’s not clear whether one would be able to make it 20 miles back to shore as it would have had to do to survive in this case.
Social media users called out the behavior in the clips, with one person writing, ‘I see no hissing and see only you act like a Jack a** calling him a sucker. F**k you man.’
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a statement that it learned of the video on May 8 and began an investigation and that ‘these vile acts of animal cruelty’ are intolerable.
DailyMail.com left a message for Cope seeking additional comment but did not immediately receive a reply.
Cope first posted the videos in three separate chunks in a private group called ‘Center Consoles Only (CCOG),’ where it was recorded and shared by a person named Jeff Wenzel, whose Facebook account lists him as being from Cleveland, Ohio.
Cope later said the following in a statement: ‘The animal was running around the boat hissing and growling, making it impossible for me or my friend to drive the boat. 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.’
While raccoons are considered dangerous because they may carry rabies, only one human has ever died from the raccoon strain of rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Further, ‘a rabid raccoon is usually dead within 1-3 days of becoming infectious, and even if you’re bitten by a rabid raccoon, effective post-exposure treatment is available,’ the Humane Society website reads.
Cope’s footage doesn’t appear to show any aggressive behavior from the raccoon, as it started by showing the animal climbing on the ledge of the boat with a man yelling, ‘Get off my f**king boat!’
Another voice asks, ‘Are you videoing this s**t?’ to which the first voice replies, ‘Yeah!’ as the raccoon jumps into the boat from the side.
As the raccoon climbs around, the man’s voice continues. ‘What the f**k’s wrong with-get off my boat!’
With the animal now at the front of the boat, the man yells, ‘God d**n coon, get off my boat!’
It sounds as if someone is stomping off-camera, as the man says, ‘Dude get the gaff, we’re just gonna have to push him off,’ as the raccoon has moved to the right side of the boat.
‘Yah!’ the man yells, as the raccoon clings to the side of the ledge. As the man backs up to grab the gaff from his friend, the raccoon then falls off, and the man says, ‘There he goes,’ while approaching the edge of the boat with the metal took in hand.
‘Here, put it in gear,’ the man says, while pointing the camera at the water to show that raccoon swimming. ‘So long sucker!’ he yells, as the video ends.
The videos were then reposted by Wenzel on May 8, with a caption that read:
‘Share this so people know what a real POS Thomas Cope is…(let the video run) its one thing to hunt animals for food or maybe not even like a particular animal, but to leave one 20 miles out in the ocean to suffer a horrible death is not what true “outdoorsman” do. It’s what cowardly entitled scumbag degenerate dirtbags do. This raccoon was just being a raccoon.’
Most who commented on the post agreed with Wenzel, lambasting Cope in the comments.
‘Disturbing that any human being thinks this is Acceptable – heartless disgusting spineless soulless a**hole is exactly what This man is and I see a poor helpless raccoon that is terrified,’ wrote Shelley Zahos Schefke.
Alex Pushkina wrote, ‘that raccoon will drown no doubts about it. You just sent a living animal to its death just because that raccoon accidentally showed up on your f**king boat! That animal is in the middle of nowhere. Hope karma will get ya.’
Another called Cope a ‘F-ing Jerk,’ writing, ‘Seriously leaving him out there to drown. What a baby man. He would have just ridden in with you.’
Others called for criminal repercussions for Cope’s actions, which the state’s wildlife agency is looking into.
‘Hope he gets done for Animal cruelty. The animal would have kept it’s distance until they reached shore. What an a**hole,’ Peter Duffy wrote.
One user said, ‘Has nobody encountered a wild raccoon before, or more specifically one you accidentally cornered like in a garage, or a boat? Just because it’s cute doesn’t mean it won’t inflict serious damage.’
Dale Luginbill disagreed with the comments suggesting the boat should have been taken back to shore with the raccoon on board, but still criticized Cope.
‘Wow. You people have no clue and have clearly never been close to any wildlife. Raccoons are no joke. Cornered or frightened they will lash out. I wouldn’t have filmed it and I wouldn’t have just kicked him over board to swim around. I would’ve killed it and that would be that,’ Luginbill wrote.
‘If you’re the type of person that says you’d like to throw him over board…damn, you have your priorities all f**ked up.’
The investigation into the incident remains open at this time. Anyone with additional information about what happened has been asked to call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.