Police quell rumor of chinchillas on loose at Monessen park
Reports of a chinchilla infestation at Monessen City Park turned out to be false, despite social media claims that a local breeder set 60 of the exotic rodents loose in the Monongahela River town, according to police Chief Jim Smith.
“To the best of our knowledge, that didn’t happen,” Smith said Thursday.
Police investigated a report posted on Facebook this week but found all of the animals owned by breeder Rhonda Fiffik to be in her control at a Monessen home. Fiffik said Thursday that the ordeal was frustrating and she said she is considering civil action against those who perpetuated the rumor.
“I let (police) in to say how can I release 60 chinchillas when they’re sitting here,” Fiffik said.
A woman who posted the Facebook message did not respond to an interview request from the Tribune-Review.
Fiffik said she has been breeding chinchillas for seven years and has traveled to shows in Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio. She plans to move the chinchillas out of the Monessen home.
“I would never release them,” she said.
Chinchillas are nocturnal animals native to South America, where they live in the Andes Mountains, according to the Animal Humane Society. They weigh a few pounds and have big ears and long tails. Their coats come in a variety of colors.
Fiffik said she sells the animals as pets and educates new chinchilla owners on how to best care for them. A standard gray chinchilla can be sold for $100, but the cost depends on the animal’s coloring and breed quality, she said.
She said she has a rare female chinchilla that she wouldn’t sell for less than $650 and a male that she wouldn’t part with for any offers under $500.
While the situation has been stressful, Fiffik has gotten amusement out of people searching the park for the creatures.
“These animals are taken care of,” she said of her chinchillas.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .