City officials in Mesquite say a teenage camp counselor hacked an opossum to death with an ax, and the animal's young were also killed.
No animal cruelty charges have been filed in the incident, which occurred last week at Camp Rorie Galloway, a summer day camp for children ages six to 12.
Camper Sammy Masters said the counselor snapped the possum's back on the first swing. The second swing cut the animal's arm off, and the third cut its nose and neck, he said.
Some parents said they are upset over what their children witnessed, and city officials are investigating what happened.
"They shouldn't have done that," said Barbara Pool, whose 11-year-old grandson saw the attack. "It was uncalled for."
"I think there was some fear, some anger and just not sure how to treat a wild animal," said Mark Hindman, assistant city manager.
He said he hopes to better train teenage counselors on how to appropriately handle wild animals.
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After the marsupial was found in a garbage can, an adult camp counselor put a lid on the can and left to contact animal control, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The newspaper reported that it wasn't clear how the animal got out of the can.
Hindman told the publication it jumped out when someone removed the lid and then jumped on a boy. One of the several teenage counselors who were with the campers took an ax from a camp office, chased it and killed.
The babies then emerged, possibly from the mother's pouch. They also were killed, though the young campers were unsure how, Hindman said.
But a 9-year-old camper told The Dallas Morning News that the counselor went for the ax before the opossum got out of the can and that the animal did not jump on anyone.
Wildlife remover Matt Evans, who deals with possums almost every day, said the animals are "very docile." He called the attack "pretty childish."
"They are extremely harmless, and really, it's not worthwhile to attack a possum," he said.
Joe Ruiz, whose stepson witnessed the incident, said it was "inexcusable."
"I'm not one to set punishment, but something needs to be done," he said. "Some type of action needs to be taken."
The three teenage counselors who were involved were immediately fired.
But Mesquite police said the attack doesn't meet the threshold for animal cruelty charges.
In Texas, property owners can kill "nuisance" animals such as opossums if the animals are considered a problem, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Ellen Goldberg and Lita Beck contributed to this report.