A £10,000 reward has been offered to anyone who helps police track down two men who were filmed kicking a squirrel into the Grand Canyon.
The two men, who are believed to be French, lured the animal to the edge of the canyon using a trail of breadcrumbs before one of them kicked it off.
They are now wanted by the US authorities – but park officials fear their chances of finding the pair are remote.
Launching an appeal to track down the “heartless thug” who carried out the kicking, the US, UK and French branches of animal rights group Peta have joined together to put forward a possible reward of £10,000 ($16,870).
Ben Williamson, a spokesperson for Peta UK, said those who abuse animals are a “danger to everyone” and must be stopped “before they act again”.
“It is imperative that any community faced with a sadistic and violent act such as this take measures to find the culprit or culprits and bring them to justice,” Mr Williamson said.
Speaking on Monday, Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said the exact place where the incident took place along the canyon was identifiable by the video’s backdrop.
“We realize that [the video has] been seen by a lot of people and that there's some sensitivity to treatment of wildlife,” she said.
Grand Canyon Chief Ranger Bill Wright said that if the men are found they could face a charged of disturbing or harassing wildlife — a federal petty offense that carries a maximum six months in jail and or a $5,000 fine.
He said he felt it was unlikely the men could be prosecuted for animal cruelty as that would require the authorities to find the squirrel and prove it had been killed or injured – a daunting task given the canyon has an average depth of 1 mile (1.6km).
The original video clip, which has since been removed from YouTube for violating its terms of service, was uploaded by user Jonathan Hildebrand.
Mr Hildebrand said he had not been involved in any plan to hurt the squirrel, and that he “did not realise what was happening until it was too late”.
“I do not know who they are,” he added. “All I know is that they were French.”