Homer’s opossum visitor, Grubby, still on the lam as town remains divided

A small furry creature, a North American opossum, perches on a branch.
A North American possum perched on a branch (Cody Pope/Wikipedia)

There’s a wild opossum in the Homer area, and not everybody is upset about it.

Many, including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, want it dead. That’s because the opossum is an invasive species.

On the other hand, it’s just weird enough for some Homerites to rally around. They’ve named it “Grubby.” The hashtag #FreeGrubby has been making the rounds on social media.

Megan Pacer with the Anchorage Daily News wrote about the Grubby saga recently. And Pacer says, as far as anyone can tell, it’s not like Grubby the Opossum even wanted to come to Alaska.


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The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Megan Pacer: So this opossum apparently made its way to Alaska on a shipping container from Washington State. We don’t know exactly where in Washington State, but it turned up in the back of a shipping container that Spenard Builders Supply in Homer had ordered. It just had supplies in it. And as they were unloading the supplies, that’s when they saw it in the back of the container and thought, “OK, what do we do?” And they called the shelter, and it all kind of unraveled from there. But, yeah, the little guy or gal made it all the way from Washington State.

Casey Grove: I don’t want to guess what the reaction was, but I’m sure it was something like, “Hey, that doesn’t belong here.” Right?

HP: Pretty much, yeah. From what I understand, because I spoke with the director of the animal shelter in Homer, they were contacted, SBS staff basically said, “What do we do here? This isn’t normal.” And from there, the shelter staff called the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, because they weren’t sure what to do either. And that’s when Fish and Game advised, “Well, hey, it’s not great that it’s here. It’s an invasive species. If you could try and trap it, we will take care of it from there. We’ll handle it.” And so the opossum, according to the director of the animal shelter, was initially trapped but managed to escape and has been on the lam ever since. And that’s kind of when the hubbub started.

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CG: Yeah. So what’s the problem with an opossum being in Alaska? I mean, you noted in your story, you’re not allowed to own them as pets. But, you know, this is just like one that randomly made it here. So what’s the big deal with that?

HP: Sure, I guess you could argue it’s not the biggest deal in the world. But what Fish and Game told me is that it is an invasive species. And with any invasive species, there is a serious connotation with that. They don’t want non-native plants or animals to be messing with native flora and fauna in Alaska. So some of the specific concerns Fish and Game shared with me were that possums could potentially be preying on local birds, native birds to the Homer area. You know, if it was a female opossum that happened to be carrying babies at the time, you know, I was told the last thing we want to do is start a population, because that could grow and really kind of start to wreak havoc. And another big concern was that opossums could spread diseases to local wildlife.

CG: The dispute now is that Fish and Game wants to catch this animal, to be clear, to get rid of it. And then there are some folks in Homer that are, like, supportive of this possum. So tell me about that.

HP: Sure. So to back up just a little bit, it actually showed up at the end of March. And it wasn’t something that was broadly known in the community until it had escaped. And then it was spotted running around near the police station on Grubstake Avenue. And so the police department, in kind of a funny PSA, posted on Facebook, “Hey, someone’s missing their possum, we just saw it run by.” That is how it got its name, Grubby, because it was on Grubstake Avenue.

Then at that point, the division really started. The shelter director told me that it had completely divided the town. There was pro-Grubby people and people agreeing, yes, you know, this is invasive, this is an issue. And it really mostly played out on social media. Businesses got in on it. There were sales being advertised, “If you come into our establishment and mention ‘free Grubby,’ you get 20% off.” There were people selling T shirts. There were flyers. “Grubby for mayor,” “Grubby for president,” even.

So, you know, one person I talked to surmised maybe this all has to do with cabin fever. People are still in the throes of winter. They need something to do. People really got galvanized over this little invader. And, yeah, people absolutely disagreed on on what to do with it. And I guess I should mention, Fish and Game is not actively out searching for this animal. There’s not a hunt on for Grubby or anything like that. They basically said, “You know, it’s not great that it’s out there. If it were to be trapped and presented to us, we would handle it.” But it’s not high enough on their list of priorities to go out seeking it.

Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.

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