Mark "Coonrippy" Brown rocketed to Internet stardom after videos of him and his pet raccoon Gunshow dancing to Aretha Franklin went viral on YouTube. Today, however, Brown is fighting to regain custody of his second raccoon pet, Rebekah, who was taken from him by state wildlife officials two week ago.
Brown, a native of Gallatin, Tenn., said he originally adopted Rebekah after she was accused of eating a local school's chickens, according to News Channel 5. After Gunshow died earlier this year, Rebekah starred in her own series of YouTube videos, where she can be seen hanging out -- and even showering -- with Brown.
The pair's unlikely friendship came to an abrupt halt, however, after officials from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency showed up to confiscate Rebekah in late July, according to local ABC affiliate WATE.
The self-described "hillbilly," who said he is in talks about a reality TV show, claims he was targeted by the TWRA because of his YouTube fame.
"Now that I have become a big fish, they've come after me to take Rebekah away from me," Brown said, according to WATE.
However, TWRA officials counter that they only moved to seize the pet after a neighbor complained, ABC News reports. A TRWA representative told the outlet that Brown refused to cooperate with officials and that Rebekah had been removed to animal sanctuary Walden's Puddle so she can eventually be reintegrated into her natural habitat.
Rebekah "deserves to live" in the wild, Bettina Bowers Schwan, the animal care director at Walden's Puddle, told ABC in an email. "It is one thing to 'love' these animals, but you must also respect them and their true natures."
TWRA spokesman Don King told The Tennessean that wild animals, including raccoons, simply aren't suitable as pets and can be very unpredictable.
?It?s pretty black and white the way the law reads," King said.
Undeterred by his odds, Brown has launched a campaign to get Rebekah back, posting videos to YouTube and mustering Facebook supporters to lobby Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on his behalf. Indeed, Haslam's official Facebook page has since been deluged by "Free Rebekah" supporters calling on the state to give the raccoon back.
"Please use common sense and realize that this animal is no longer able to be rehabilitated for the wild,"
Francesca Serritella wrote. "It is domesticated. And as such, it should be adopted by a responsible home. Luckily you have one available. Please return the raccoon Rebekah to Mark Brown and his family. It's truly what's best for the animal at no harm to people or the community. Thanks."
Another supporter, Kathy Devine Baran, sympathetically noted that, "For every rule or law there is an exception. The gentleman with the raccoon has shown love and compassion for an innocent creature."
There are also several petitions, including one on Change.org that has more than 1,800 signatures.
Brown said he is trying to stay optimistic.
"I think we can get Rebekah back. I should not be condemned, I should be commended," he told ABC News. "I've done no wrong."
Should he get his racoon back? In general, should people be allowed to make traditionally "wild" animals into pets?