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Va. police find ferret in the mail

Stamps the ferret was shipped from a Lynchburg post office in a cardboard box stuffed with food, toy cars and a doll. The destination was a town near San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Stamps may have made it there -- had he stopped wiggling.

A postal inspector, David McKinney, got the call about it at his Roanoke office on the afternoon of Monday, April 5, hours after Stamps and the package had been deposited and $63.55 was paid for overnight delivery.

“The box was dropped off at 2 p.m., and it started moving about 5 p.m.,” McKinney said. “Periodically, it would just vibrate. The postal workers put their hand on the box and it kind of freaked them out.”

The person who sent the package did not want the world to know who he was. He signed his name as John Diaz, from Appomattox, and he used every trick employed by people sending illegal packages.

But McKinney simply wanted to return the box and tell the sender what animals could and could not be mailed -- chicks in well-marked, ventilated overnight boxes, for example, are allowed. He called 411 and looked in a database for Diaz and the addressee, a Karlo Rosa who lives in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. No luck.

McKinney took the package that night and drove it to the return address, where he found an empty rural ranch-style house. A real estate agent told him the house was for sale, and neighbors told him they had never heard of John Diaz and that the house had been vacant for more than a year.

The next morning, McKinney got a search warrant from the U.S. District Court in Roanoke and asked officers from Roanoke Police Department's animal control unit and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to open the box.

“I thought, 'I'm not opening that thing.' It was moving, and whatever was in it wanted to come out,” McKinney said.

Inside the 10-pound, 13-by-13-inch box they found a wire cage, a 1-pound salt-and-pepper ferret, two toy cars, a green-haired doll, a box of Benadryl with one tablet missing, a bag of food for ferrets and a box of dietary supplements for ferrets, according to the search warrant return.

McKinney was glad it wasn't a snake. In April 2007, someone mailed an 8-foot python from the same Lynchburg post office, and it slithered out of the package while in transit.

McKinney took the ferret to the Roanoke Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection, where the fur ball stayed 13 days. On Monday he was moved to the Roanoke Valley SPCA, where attendants started calling him Stamps and he was put up for adoption.

“You'd be surprised. Some people just have a thing for ferrets,” said Bill Watson, executive director of the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Indeed. Stamps clawed Wednesday onto the polo shirt of a ferret fan, Craig Bradley, who paid the $25 adoption fee and took him home to join the 16 ferrets in his house near Bonsack. (Bradley and his wife are co-founders of the Big Lick Ferret Shelter & Hospice.)

“I don't understand why someone would put a ferret in the mail,” Bradley said.

That's something McKinney couldn't figure out, either. But this much is true: According to Puerto Rico's Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, ferrets are illegal on the island.

-- The Roanoke Times

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 22, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Virginia  
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