Sunday, May 25, 2008

M. c. conviciator

Nutria prank sadism outrages community despite nuisance

Sun May 18, 2008 12:47pm EDT

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) – The Police Department has joined the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in investigating a series of incidents involving nutria in Hampton Roads this past week.

Several of the rodents, a species considered a nuisance animal by authorities, have been found in public places bleeding to death, their genital areas crudely mutilated.

In each case, the wounded nutria was also dressed like a clown in a miniature satin costume tailored to fit its body.

“Everyone agrees there’s a nutria problem and that culls are in order,” says Drale Jacksett, spokesman for Game and Inland Fisheries.

“But there’s absolutely no justification for this type of cruelty. This is someone’s very bad idea of a joke, but no one’s laughing.”

Nutria (Myocastor coypus) are large rodents resembling beavers. They are voracious, prolific and reproduce virtually unchecked by predators or disease, thus posing a threat to natural areas such as local marshlands.

“It’s essentially open season on nutria in these parts,” says Virginia Beach Police Sergeant Mark Buthawn. “But that doesn’t entail drawing out their suffering in this vile and inhumane way, or dressing them as clowns, which is simply not funny.”

The incidents have all been called in from fairly populous areas. “There are several charges that I can and will detain the perpetrators for,” says Sgt. Buthawn.

“Often kids or senior citizens are finding these animals, and it’s not until they get much closer that they see what’s been done to them… The fact that it’s always hecklers receiving this treatment makes the crimes more revolting.”

The “hecklepest” or heckler nutria (M. c. conviciator) is the least common of the five recognized subspecies of nutria. It is known for emitting a high-pitched chatter — similar to taunting or teasing made by a very young child — when it is in danger or injured.

“We do need a humane and large-scale program to handle the nutria threat,” says Jae Vincoff, 63, owner of V&F Wildlife & Farm Pest Control in Suffolk. “But we don’t need nasty stunts like this. Who the heck thinks it’s funny doing that? It’s not funny.”

Most of the pranks have been reported as occurring within Virginia Beach city limits. On Saturday, acting Chief Assistant Deputy Sheriff Jacques Underberry issued a public statement, warning: “to mangle a nutria, genitally or otherwise, and dress it up as a clown is sick, illegal and no laughing matter,” and that responsible parties will be subject to the full extent of the law.