TWO incidents of alleged animal cruelty in one day at Lake Wendouree have sparked concern for the welfare of native animals.
While a woman has recounted witnessing a "disturbing" incident of animal cruelty involving a possum at the popular location on Thursday morning, a video has also circulated on social media showing a young man hurling a shoe at the head of an unsuspecting black swan.
The woman, who does not wish to be named, was returning to her car after walking around the lake - a route she takes each morning - when she saw a possum lying near the roundabout at Forest Street about 10.30am.
Not sure if the possum was sick, injured or in fact deceased, the woman called the City of Ballarat to inform it about the animal.
While on the phone, a white Mercedes Benz wagon pulled up next to her. What she witnessed next shocked her.
While still on the phone, the woman watched as the man exited his vehicle and dragged the possum off the road by its tail.
Believing he was attending to the removal of the animal from the road she called out to him, asking if he was removing it as she was on the phone to the council.
When he didn't answer, she stepped out of her vehicle and approached the man, again asking him if he was taking care of the possum.
"The next moment he pulled out a knife and started stabbing the possum, cutting its tail off. I didn't know if it was dead or alive so it really freaked me out. It scared the s*** out of me," she said.
Hastily returning to her own vehicle, she watched in astonishment as the man returned to his vehicle with the possum's tail in his hand and drove off, leaving the mutilated and presumably dead animal on the side of the road.
The woman hasn't been able to shake the incident from her mind. She said it had left her "stomach churning" as it had occurred at a lake where hundreds of people including families, children and tourists walk, run and cycle each day and the act was committed in full view of everybody.
In this year alone people have deliberately run over roos and emus, ripped a kookaburra's head off, stoned wombats, thrown shoes at swans at the lake and now this. I'm pretty sickened by it.A woman who witnessed the incident
She said cruelty against animals required harsher penalties to stop them from occurring.
Meanwhile, a video believed to have been filmed on Thursday evening in the car park on Wendouree Parade has circulated on multiple social media platforms.
The video depicts a young man seated in a maroon Ford Falcon removing his shoe before hurling it at one of the lake's most popular attractions - a swan.
The person who filmed the video is heard laughing.
Wildlife rescuer Heather Lewis said though the majority of people were wonderful and loved the local wildlife, these kinds of incidents of cruelty against animals at the lake do occur.
She has witnessed people kicking swans and heard of ducks being beaten with a stick but as the lake is such a busy place with so many people who do appreciate the wildlife there, she said cruel behaviour was often called out.
This behaviour shows a total disrespect for animals. They feel pain just like we do.Heather Lewis
Ms Lewis, who has been involved in pushing for a 40 km/h speed limit around the lake to prevent wildlife being hit by cars, said it was important that people refrain from feeding the wildlife as this is what encourages them to frequent busy areas like car parks, looking for food, which made them vulnerable to being hit by cars or harmed in other ways.
"The majority of people love wildlife and that is one of the biggest things that protects them. A lot of reports that lead to rescues come from the public so for every bad person, a lot of others are doing the right thing and are very caring of wildlife.
"It is just a shame that there are a few people who do these kinds of things to animals."
Police confirmed they are investigating the animal cruelty incident involving the swan, after the video was brought to investigators' attention by members of the public. The woman also contacted police about what she witnessed.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning's Chief Conservation Regulator Kate Gavens said all Victorian wildlife, including swans and possums, were protected under the Wildlife Act 1975.
There are significant penalties of up to $8261 and/ or six months imprisonment for destroying a possum under the act, while a penalty of up to $3304 is a possibility for injuring a swan.
"This incident is deeply concerning, we take matters involving wildlife crime very seriously," Ms Gavens said.
The Office of the Conservation Regulator works closely with the RSPCA, Victoria Police and Crime Stoppers to combat wildlife crime.
Anybody who witnessed either incident or who has information about wildlife crime is encouraged to contact DELWP on 136 186.
Contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or file a confidential report online at www.crimestoppersvic.gov.au if you have information.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.