ANIMAL LOVER: Mikala Burns, in the Facebook post that started it all. Burns initially claimed on social media that she had been falsely accused of shooting the possum, but had found it run over. She said the picture was staged and was never meant to go online, where it went viral.
ANIMAL LOVER: Mikala Burns, in the Facebook post that started it all. Burns initially claimed on social media that she had been falsely accused of shooting the possum, but had found it run over. She said the picture was staged and was never meant to go online, where it went viral. Contributed

Woman who caused social media storm with dead possum guilty

THE social media photograph of a protected animal, shot dead in the Amamoor State Forest, launched not only a storm of angry Facebook responses, but this week also led to a significant fine in Gympie Magistrates Court.

Mooloo woman Mikala Ann Burns ended weeks of social media denials when she pleaded guilty in the court this week to killing a protected brushtail possum in the Amamoor State Forest on January 24.

Burns, 24, also pleaded guilty on Monday to unlawfully discharging a weapon in Amamoor State Forest, and with using a firearm without a permit, during the same course of action.

Police told the court the issue had become public on February 19, when a photograph was posted on social media showing two females displaying a dead possum.

The animal had been shot and killed during a night hunt, aimed at obtaining dog food, the court was told.

 

Mikala Burns with her horse Jacko.
Mikala Burns with her horse Jacko. Contributed

Kingaroy Crime Squad detectives had investigated and Burns had told them she was using spotlights to hunt kangaroos.

"She said she saw eyes in the grass and thought it was a hare.

 

Mikala Ann Burns, second from left, in Channon St, after leaving Gympie Magistrates Court with supporters earlier this year.
Mikala Ann Burns, second from left, in Channon St, after leaving Gympie Magistrates Court with supporters earlier this year. Arthur Gorrie

"She fired a second time because she believed her first shot would have wounded it.

"She did not realise discharging a weapon was an offence."

There had been a "major public backlash" and Burns had been "extremely remorseful."

Facing fines totalling more than $5400 and four years in jail, Burns had "learnt a valuable lesson," her solicitor said.

"The animal was wounded and she did the humane thing and shot it (again)," he said.

She had been shooting since an early age but her desire to shoot had now gone.

"That realisation had come after a significant public backlash."

Magistrate Chris Callaghan said he accepted that Burns had shot a possum, but not identified her target and had realised it was wounded.

"Shooting in the forest was the most serious (of the charges)," he said. "Someone else could have been there."

He told Burns, unemployed, that he intended to fine her, but she might be better off converting the penalty to community service.

He fined her $1000 with no conviction recorded, in view of her lack of any previous offences.

Gympie Times


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