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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – A baby opossum left blind, with a broken jaw in the Lowcountry last week is on the mend, but many questions surrounding her injuries remain.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) announced Wednesday they were unable to confirm allegations posted on social media that an injured opossum was attacked or beaten by golfers.
The agency said that while a local veterinarian examined the animal, a cause of her injuries couldn’t be determined.
According to the animal rehabilitation organization, Wildlife Rehab of Greenville (WRG), the opossum, now known as Scarlett, was believed to have been hit by golfers with their clubs on a Hilton Head Island golf course.
A Facebook post about the allegations has been shared several thousand times online.
SCDNR says the opossum was found when a passing motorist spotted her on the side of a road, approximately 300 feet from a golf course fairway which has not been identified to News 3 by the agency or WRG.
According to SCDNR, the person who stopped to help the opossum did not advise seeing golfers or any other people in the area, and no one else stopped or was at the scene before local volunteers affiliated with the rehab group arrived to pick her up.
In a statement to News 3, WRG explained that a rehabber, who had been with the organization for a few years and was recently elected to the Board of Directors, made several statements regarding witnesses to the incident, the location of the attack and public aid from local departments.
“As this rehabber has been with us for some time, we had no reason not to believe her statements,” WRG stated, adding, “As we’ve since learned, nearly all of it was misleading at best and untruthful at worst.”
The organization went on to explain that the rehabber did treat Scarlett and took the opossum to a veterinarian.
But the rehabber has since decided to leave WRG, according to the group’s statement. WRG says they requested the rehabber turn Scarlett over to their care but have not received any response.
“As far as we know, Scarlett is still in the care of the original rehabber who took her in,” the organization said. “WRG has made repeated demands for her return to our care since we’ve been raising funds for her.”
In the days since the initial Facebook post about Scarlett, WRG has shared several updates on the opossum’s condition with links for users to donate to the rehab group.
Thousands of dollars of donations have been received, according to the Facebook posts.
The group has also been selling handmade crochet opossums for $15 each or two for $25.
News 3 asked WGR President Wendy Watson where those funds would be used now that Scarlett is no longer in their care. She said the donations will go to the organization’s general fund to help any animals they receive.
“If anyone feels they were misled and would like any donations they made to be refunded, we are more than happy to do so,” WGR said, adding, “We will continue to work towards the return of Scarlett to our care.”
WRG says they stand by their claim that Scarlett was attacked by a human.
“We do not believe she was hit by a car or golf cart as there was no evidence of road rash, as is so often seen in hit by car injuries,” the organization said. “She also does not exhibit crush injuries related to a dog attack or the puncture wounds or infections you would expect from a cat attack.”
WRG added that they have reason to believe there are eyewitnesses who have not come forward at this point.
SCDNR said they will continue to investigate the incident if additional information or evidence surfaces.
SCDNR says anyone with additional information can contact the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-922-5431 or online and can remain anonymous. The agency said they will immediately follow up on any credible information provided.