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Boater behind viral raccoon video releases apology statement

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - The boater behind a video that circulated on social media last week, sparking a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation, has released a statement to apologize.

Last week, video surfaced online of a raccoon on a boat with a group of people. Facebook users who sent the video to WFLA said it was posted in a private group for boaters.

In the video, a man can be heard yelling and cursing at the raccoon. Eventually, the animal falls into the water and is left behind by the boaters. 

News Channel 8 did not identify the man last week because he had not been charged. The man has since released an apology statement identifying himself as Thomas Cope.

"I apologize for my actions on the boat earlier this week. I sincerely wish there was some way I could have safely returned to shore to release the raccoon," Cope said.

The boater explains in the statement that the raccoon had hidden away on the boat for several hours and didn't come out until they were well offshore.

"The animal was running around the boat hissing and growling, making it impossible for me or my friend to drive the boat," he said. "Knowing raccoons can be rabid and unpredictable, the only realistic option we could think of in that moment was to get the raccoon off the boat."

"I feel bad for the animal and I'm sorry for what I did," Cope added.

Wildlife officials announced Friday they were investigating the video after receiving a tip from the public. 

"The FWC takes this very seriously and is currently investigating this incident," the organization said. 

Anyone with information on the incident is being asked to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.


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