Homer police take Grubby the opossum into custody

a possum
Grubby the opossum seen Wednesday during its capture in Homer. (Homer Police Department)

Grubby the opossum, who has wandered Homer for more than a month, has officially been captured and taken to the Alaska Zoo.

Grubby arrived in the Kenai Peninsula community in March after hitching a ride in a shipping container from Washington state. The visitor quickly divided the town. Some wanted her captured and killed because opossums don’t live in Alaska, making Grubby an invasive species. But others took a liking to her, launching the hashtag #FreeGrubby.

Grubby was on the run for weeks until Wednesday.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jason Herreman said Homer police Officer Taylor Crowder was able to capture the female opossum.

Taylor Crowder
Homer police officer Taylor Crowder is sworn in on May 14, 2021. (From City of Homer)

In a whimsical Facebook post, Homer police confirmed the capture of the “wanted fugitive and somewhat local celebrity” near Lakeside Drive and Smokey Bay at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“Officer Crowder attempted to contact the suspect alone, who then fled the area, ultimately coming to a dead end, cornered in front of a local business,” police wrote. “Officer Crowder, without any fear or hesitation, attempted to apprehend the suspect, who then let out a little hiss and growl and bit our officer in the hand.”

Herreman said Crowder spotted Grubby near where she arrived in town, at the local Spenard Builders Supply hardware store. The opossum was running across a parking lot, headed toward a state Division of Motor Vehicles office and a 24-hour fitness gym.

“Officer Crowder saw it and knew that we were trying to catch that critter,” he said. “And so he trapped it against a building, it sounds like, and got some help, and they scooped it into a garbage can and held it for us.”

Herreman said biologists had originally planned to euthanize the opossum due to the dangers invasive species can pose to indigenous animals, ranging from predation to disease transmission.

“We don’t want invasive species in the state, because of the problems that come with them, and the disruption to the ecosystem that could cause so we do our best as an agency to limit them,” he said.

According to Herreman, the fate of Grubby — named because she was discovered near Homer’s Grubstake Avenue — had become a hot topic among locals.

“There was folks who were interested in making sure this animal wasn’t necessarily destroyed, but had a chance to be re-homed or sent back to where it came from,” he said. “And then we have other folks who understand the invasive-species issues and don’t have any issues with the animal possibly being put down for the good of the ecosystem.”

Asked if a “cute factor” played a role in local perceptions of Grubby as a mammal on the lam, Herreman was dubious.

“Some people would call her cute,” he said. “Some would call her a little mean-looking.”

an opossum
Grubby the opossum, trapped in a trash can, shows her teeth. (From Jason Herreman/Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

Alaska has few opossum specialists, according to Herreman, but he didn’t see any initial signs that Grubby had been pregnant or had given birth. He stressed that Fish and Game manages wildlife to protect populations rather than individual animals, which makes Grubby’s survival an anomaly.

“In this case, I think it has a happy outcome for everyone,” he said. “But that can’t always be the case with them when we’re dealing with invasive species.”

an opposum in a container
Grubby the opossum in a garbage can after its capture by Homer police. (Jason Herreman/Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

After checking with regional animal facilities, Herreman said the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage volunteered to take Grubby in.

Zoo director Pat Lampi said Thursday that Grubby arrived Wednesday night, and will undergo an examination by zoo veterinarians.

“It’s another rescue, not something native to Alaska, but they do get as far north as into Canada,” Lampi said. “And so we decided we would go ahead and try to make a home for it.”

Because opossums are common in the Lower 48, Lampi said Grubby is likely to remain in Alaska — possibly as part of an exhibit on invasive species in the state.

“I think it’s the first opossum that’s ever been turned in here to my knowledge,” Lampi said.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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