A Roanoke County photographer has gone viral — in the celebrated social media sense — with her humorous take on the toilet paper buying spree that swept the country as COVID-19 anxiety set in.

On March 12, Anne Sampson posted a series of four images to Facebook depicting a single roll of toilet paper appearing to hide behind a tree trunk in the woods before emerging from cover, its white “tail” trailing behind it on a log.

Her tongue-in-cheek caption read, “I don’t do much wildlife photography, so I was super excited to get these shots. They’re thought to be nearly extinct. Over-hunting has had the biggest impact on their numbers. They like to travel in packs of 2, 4, 6, 8, and up, so seeing this one out solo says something about how seriously they’ve been affected. I’m just glad I had my zoom.”

Sampson, 60, wrote that it took longer to climb down into the ravine she used as the setting than it did to take the pictures. “I think there was no more inspiration than, ‘How can I illustrate what’s going on with a photograph?’ ”

The joke resonated — not just with friends, but internationally. Early on, “my mind was blown when the shares started climbing toward 20,000,” she wrote. Now, “this is off the charts.”

As of Wednesday, the gallery had been shared more than 427,000 times, with reactions of more than 86,000 likes and 15,000 comments and climbing.

An Australian news outlet asked permission to reprint the photos. A writer with Tuoi Tre News in Vietnam interviewed Sampson and published articles in English and Vietnamese.

Her post became so popular so fast that some less-than-scrupulous internet users swiped her photos and words and tried to pass them off as their own.

Yet many more have contacted her to thank her for the chuckle, and even to chat about how COVID-19 is affecting their part of the world.

“My experience has been overwhelmingly positive, despite the thefts,” she wrote. “People are still reaching out from the other side of the world to say, ‘Thanks for a great laugh!’ ”

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