GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — A warning before you watch the video included in this story: It shows the mayor of Atmore, Alabama, Jim Staff, hitting a raccoon with a shovel. It happened on Sunday in Gulf Shores.
A woman recorded the incident and posted the video to Facebook. She says the raccoon has been in the area for years and unfortunately people have been feeding it, “but that gives him no right to do that, hit the animal with a shovel right in front of my 10-year-old son,” she said.
“I told him over and over again that raccoon is there all the time.”
The woman says she also reported the incident to Gulf Shores Police, but she never heard back from them.
Gulf Shores Police told 8News affiliate News 5 Tuesday that the situation is being looked into as a possible animal cruelty incident.
On Facebook, people are criticizing the mayor saying he should be charged. But on Tuesday, Mayor Staff sent WKRG a statement saying he and his wife were afraid the raccoon might be rabid.
“I was going to back the boat in the water and my wife was out of the truck to hold the rope for the boat,” the mayor explained. “I heard my wife yell and jump back and say ‘look out for the raccoon.’ A raccoon had run at my wife while she was out of the truck.”
Mayor Staff says the behavior seemed unnatural, that the raccoon then also came at him.
“That’s when I hit the raccoon with the shovel,” he said.
Mayor Staff says the video doesn’t show the raccoon’s bizarre behavior before he hit it. He says the video shows him “putting the raccoon out of its misery” after he first hit it for coming at him.
Mayor Staff also pointed to the many cases of rabies recently in Baldwin County and other cases in Alabama, many of them reported by WKRG.
“The bottom line is I had every right to fear and act accordingly when a wild animal ran first at my wife and then me,” the mayor added. “The video and comments posted on Facebook are both misleading and irresponsible because they don’t give the entire picture of what happened.”
Meanwhile, JJ McCool of Wildlife Solutions, an animal control service in Baldwin County, said it would be abnormal for a wild animal not to be afraid of humans, and if someone would have called his company outlining the story the way Staff did, Wildlife Solutions would most likely put the animal down. McCool also said it’s dangerous to feed wild animals for various reasons.
Read the full statement here: