LEBANON − A marsupial's days of wandering the countryside of Lebanon County have come to an end.
The animal, confirmed to be a wallaby, was captured by Lebanon County Game Warden Derek Spitler near Freeport Road in Bethel Township Wednesday morning, according to PA State Game Commission southeast region's information and education supervisor Dustin Stoner.
Spitler went door to door on Freeport Road to track down the wallaby that had eluded capture for over a week. This morning at around 9 a.m., he said a resident called to report that the wallaby was hopping through their yard.
"It paid off talking to the community out there," Spitler said. "I just appreciate everyone's concern and involvement. And, I'm just glad that the wallaby was captured safely and is at a better place."
A veterinarian for the Game Commission worked with Spitler to ensure the correct dosage of tranquilizer was administered to the approximately 35 pound wallaby to prevent harm.
After its capture, he said the wallaby — which was identified as a male — looked healthy though Spitler warned he doesn't have much expertise with the species.
"It is the most unusual thing I've had to deal with in my career with the Game Commission," Spitler said. He's worked with the Game Commission for a decade.
The wallaby was safely transported to a menagerie — a facility licensed to exhibit wildlife — somewhere in Pennsylvania, but Stoner declined to say where the wallaby is specifically headed.
No one has come forward to claim ownership of the wallaby.
According to the Title 34 Game and Wildlife Code, it is illegal for those with a wildlife or exotic animal permit to release wildlife into the wild or fail to protect the public from wildlife in their possession. Spitler said escaped or lost wildlife must be reported to the Game Commission.
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Halifax and the Lebanon Valley Livestock Market & Exotic Animal Sale on Freeport Road both said they did not lose a wallaby.
Stoner said the Game Commission hasn't received any calls regarding a lost wallaby. However, the Game Commission has opened an investigation to find the wallaby's owner. If the wallaby's previous owner was not licensed to care for exotic pets, they could face hundreds of dollars in fines.
Spitler will be working with other officers in the Lebanon County area to locate the wallaby's owner. So far, he has a few leads but is unable to provide any further detail. As far as Spitler knows, no one in the area is licensed to own a wallaby.
The animal became a popular spectacle in and around Mount Zion over the last week. Residents have posted photos and videos of the marsupial as it wandered through the area.
At first, residents were unsure if their friendly intruder was a kangaroo or wallaby. Both animals fall under the category of marsupial, meaning they carry their young in a pouch.
The main distinction between the two is size, with wallabies often weighing in at less than 40 pounds and standing no more than about three feet tall. Kangaroos are often twice as tall and can weigh more than three times as much.
As many might guess, wallabies are not native to Lebanon and roaming free throughout the area could be a danger to the wallaby itself, native animals and residents, according to Spitler.
"It can interrupt the food chain of our native wildlife and how they interact," he said, adding that the wallaby could also kick, scratch or bite anyone who would attempt to pet or catch it.