What a bystander thought would be an adorable video showing a groundhog and a deputy turned gruesome when the officer shot and killed the animal in the middle of a busy street.
Maryland resident Justyna Olkowska posted a video to Facebook on Sunday recorded from her vehicle on a road in Eldersburg. The video shows a Carroll County sheriff’s deputy standing and looking at a groundhog wandering in the road. At first, she can be heard laughing, joking about the the officer “talking to” the groundhog. But a little more than a minute in, she cries out in shock as the officer pulls out a gun and shoots the animal dead.
The video may be disturbing to some viewers:
“It started out as a cute encounter where I thought he was trying to help the little fella,” Olkowska told The Baltimore Sun. “I obviously did not think that it would take this turn and was kind of shocked. I am sure the officer did the best thing in this situation. It is not for me to judge.”
The sheriff’s office said in a statement published by CBS News that the deputy pulled over when he noticed the groundhog blocking the road and creating a traffic hazard.
He then “realized that it was not responding as expected for an animal that was not being cornered or trapped,” Cpl. Jon Light, a sheriff’s office spokesman, told the Sun. “Believing the groundhog to be either sick or injured, the deputy then put the animal down for the public’s safety.”
Local TV station 11 News noted that “several residents” emailed it with concerns about the way the deputy handled the situation.
Karen Baker, the executive director of the Carroll County Humane Society, acknowledged to 11 News that the groundhog seemed to be behaving strangely.
Groundhog expert Gregory Florant, a biology professor at Colorado State University, told HuffPost that the groundhog appeared to be only trying to cross the road.
“He/she probably had a burrow on the other side,” he said in an email. “It was not attempting to go after the police officer.”
Florant added that because the video was recorded from so far away, he couldn’t tell whether the animal had rabies or another type of illness or injury. However, he suggested that “the officer might have called Animal Control first, rather than just shooting it.”
The groundhog’s body will not be tested for rabies, according to The Hamilton Journal News, because there was no known contact with humans or domestic animals.