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Grand Canyon investigating squirrel-kicking video

First Published Aug 04 2014 06:15 pm • Last Updated Aug 04 2014 09:56 pm

Flagstaff, Ariz. • Authorities are looking into a viral Internet video that shows a man kicking a squirrel off what appears to be the edge of the Grand Canyon.

But park officials say the chances of finding the man are slim.

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"Right now they are working on it," park spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said Monday. "They realize that it’s been seen by a lot of people and that there’s some sensitivity to treatment of wildlife."

The short video posted on YouTube shows a shirtless, barefoot man in shorts and a straw cowboy hat leaving a trail of food at the edge of a canyon. He then puts on one of his shoes and kicks the squirrel into the air. Another similarly dressed man looks on.

Shedlowski said the geographical features in the video appear to match part of the Grand Canyon. Authorities have reached out to YouTube seeking more information, she said.

Messages sent Monday to the person who uploaded the video and to YouTube were not immediately returned.

Grand Canyon Chief Ranger Bill Wright said no one reported a squirrel being kicked over the edge of the canyon. Rather, the video was brought to the park’s attention on Saturday. Since then, the park has received messages from people who said they were appalled and disgusted by the behavior of the man and urged authorities to hold him accountable.

Wright said he doesn’t believe the video is a hoax.

"I think they took an opportunity to get something on video, which is really foolish," he said.

If found, the man could face a charge that falls into a category of disturbing or harassing wildlife — a federal petty offense that carries a maximum six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. Wright said rangers likely would not pursue animal cruelty under a state statute because that would require them to retrieve the squirrel and prove that it was injured or had died.

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The average depth of the Grand Canyon is 1 mile, but its rock outcroppings, trails, and other ledges don’t guarantee that something going over the edge would fall a mile below, Wright said.

Squirrels are an everyday sight at the Grand Canyon and have become accustomed to visitors, climbing on their laps, begging for food and ransacking backpacks. Park officials discourage visitors from petting or feeding wildlife because the animals can bite or attack.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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