ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - Leaders at a local wildlife conservation center are now treating an opossum they believe was beaten by several young men.
Sabrina Garvin and her staff at the Southwestern Virginia Wildlife Conservation Center are mad.
"This one pulls at our heart strings and we're gonna go the extra mile for her because it's just," the executive director said, sighing, "it shouldn't have happened."
They say a female opossum suffered head trauma - possibly at the hands of young men in Radford.
Garvin said she was told a woman saw several young men surround the opossum, and one of them beat it with a board.
She's told the bystander jumped in and took the opossum to a rehabber, who likely saved her life.
Now the opossum and her babies, tucked away in her pouch, are resting.
She's in a secluded enclosure on the center's property to reduce stress.
"There's not a lot hands on that we can really do to help," said staff Naturalist Haley Olsen-Hodges. "The body just had to heal and do it's own thing."
While there's no apparent video evidence, they say the opossum's injuries are consistent with a beating.
"But this is one of the first and worst instances of someone going out of their way and intentionally harming an animal that is doing nothing to them," Olsen-Hodges said.
They say the animal can't climb but is at least eating food.
Garvin and her staff want people to understand the gravity of animal abuse
"It's sad because we need to understand that these animals are important to the environment as other animals are," Garvin said. This is also part of our society that we need to correct."
The staff has high hopes for the creature's recovery.
"But for patients like this, we're a lot more emotionally invested in it because what happened to her was flat out cruel," Olsen-Hodges said.
"And if we can do something to make her life better and kind of right some of the wrong that's been done to her. We're gonna do it."
Garvin has reached out to both the Radford Animal Control Unit as well as the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Both agencies tell WDBJ7 they are investigating the incident.