Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Keys Killing
The Humane Society of the United States, which recently blew the whistle on cruelty at a meat packaging plant, is now taking aim at the killing of raccoons in the Florida Keys. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- These Keys raccoons are safe. They're being cared for by a wildlife rescuer. But their relatives in the wild are at risk. They've been killed to protect two endangered species here, the marsh rabbit and the Key Largo woodrat.
Paul Rice: "The raccoons are euthanized because that is probably the most humane thing that we can do."
Paul Rice is the District Chief for State Parks. He says raccoons can't be moved because that could spread disease. In Big Pine Key, a program to protect the marsh rabbit at the federal refuge, resulted in the trapping and killing of raccoons.
Paula Cannon: "They're doing it in natural areas such as where these rabbits are, where they've lived side by side and the footprints in the mud prove that."
Paula Cannon, her husband Gary, and other keys residents have been sounding the alarm for months, and now a national organization is also expressing concern.
The Humane Society of the United States sent an e-mail to 294,000 Floridians requesting they contact federal authorities to stop what it calls "an outrageous trapping program" that is "biologically senseless and inhumane," and now there are questions about just how raccoons have been killed by the state.
This home video shows what appears to be a gas chamber on the grounds of Pennekamp State Park. These devices use CO2 to euthanize animals and require specialized training. I showed Paul Rice a picture from the video and asked for an explanation.
Paul Rice: "We don't have any gas chambers."
Carmel Cafiero: "What is this then?"
Paul Rice: "I don't know, I don't even recognize the building."
The park service later sent an e-mail explaining that the equipment was being stored from an earlier trapping program with the federal government where it was used, but the state is not using it now.
Keys resident: "If you're not doing it, then why is that there?"
The man who took the video thinks someone might be using the gas chamber. He asked we protect his identity, so someone else is speaking his words.
Keys resident: "I had someone come to me and tell me this was going on."
He and other Keys residents think their wildlife is under attack.
Paula Cannon: "I wonder why they call it paradise sometimes, I really, do because sometimes it doesn't feel like paradise, it feels like a war zone."
For now, the locals appear to have won a battle. The parks say they are not trapping raccoons, at the moment.
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