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DNR investigating alleged opossum beating in Summerville area

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The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is investigating an alleged incident in which multiple teens were seen using a baseball bat to beat a opossum.

According to agency spokesman David Lucas, the incident occurred over the weekend in the Summerville area, and Berkeley County DNR officers are looking into it.

He said his agency received a tip on its Operation Game Thief hotline. Agency officials also received still shots from a Snapchat video allegedly showing the individuals beating the animal inside a garage, Lucas said. The video and pictures have been shared across social media.

One witness to the video, Cierra Alexis Black, stated on her Facebook page on Saturday that she "woke up to the most disgusting thing on Snapchat." She said in her post that the footage showed the individuals throwing the opossum up in the air for others to swing at like a baseball.

"Once they've already hit this poor animal a few times you hear them say, 'He has a broken leg,' but yet they still abuse this animal over and over again!" Black states in her post. "I found this very disturbing and...very inhumane."

Lucas said he didn't know if the opposum survived and had no additional details in the case but did say animal cruelty is a misdemeanor offense that isn't usually handled by DNR. He wasn't immediately certain if DNR or another agency would need to bring such a charge against individuals in the case, should an investigation result in any arrests.

The alleged incident also has one of South Carolina's opposum rehabilitators, T. DePottie, upset. She said she and other similar caretakers who raise the baby animals see an influx of them in the area from February to August and sometimes into the fall season. DePottie said she fears for their lives.

"We get in dozens and dozens of calls each baby season...of mom opposums who were hit by cars, and all that's left are pouches full of opposum babies," she said. "Our ultimate fear in life is not a car; it's that our babies end up in the hands of humans, humans like the ones in the video."

DePottie called Black a hero for posting still shots of the alleged video to social media and that the issue is not a comedic one.

"Most young adults find this kind of thing entertaining or funny and just move on with their day," DePottie said. 

She said that overall opposums are more beneficial to people than pesky.

"Their body temp is too low to even harbor rabies, and they clean up our nation of Lyme disease by eating all the ticks that carry it," DePottie said.

The wild marsupial also eats venomous snakes "that would otherwise kill a curious child or jogger in the woods," according to DePottie.

Since the alleged incident, the wildlife caretaker said she and others in her line of work have received threats for speaking out against such animal cruelty. According to DePottie, a person connected to the people in the video has been contacting DePottie and others, trying to silence them.

"Telling us to stop, to leave it alone," she said. "Telling even me, in private, to watch out, to be on the lookout for her and someone else. ...She thinks we will go away if she is scary. We won't; we have seen abuse before, and we won't stop until these people are in a court of law facing up to what they did."

Meanwhile, Barnyard Feed & Supply in Ridgeville sent a statement to the Journal Scene stating that one of the people involved with the video is not employed there.

Some outraged locals had connected the business to that person, but the business said that person is related only by marriage and that it shares the community's anger over the incident.