It turns out that Grubby the opossum — who hitched a ride to Alaska in a shipping container in March — had babies.
State biologists say they captured a male opossum Thursday near Homer City Hall. The opossum, one of Grubby’s offspring, appears to be three to four months old. They’re now looking for more young opossums in the Kenai Peninsula town.
“Opossums typically have litter sizes of, say, eight to nine — they’ve been known to have as many as 13,” said Jason Herreman with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “So there’s probably a few individuals out there that we’re trying to track down.”
Grubby originally landed in Homer in the back of a shipping container that came from Washington state. She was on the run for about two months. Biologists wanted Grubby caught because opossums don’t live in Alaska, making her an invasive species. Police eventually captured her at the end of May and she was taken to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage.
Herreman said Grubby was most likely pregnant when she arrived in Alaska. But that wasn’t known until the young opossums started appearing. He said there have been multiple sightings of opossums around Homer this week, including one near Grubstake Avenue, Grubby’s namesake street where she was first seen.
Herreman said it’s not surprising that the younger opossums are out on their own.
“These guys are to the size and age where they should be able to make it on their own just fine, particularly with the conditions we have in Homer and where they’re at in town,” he said.
By Friday, operators of Homer’s animal shelter were asking pet owners to keep their animals indoors during Fish and Game’s live-trapping efforts.
As an invasive species, Herreman said the young opossums pose the same concerns that Grubby herself did, ranging from spreading infectious diseases to eating indigenous animals.
“There’s plenty of food sources for them, the weather’s warm,” Herreman said. “So unfortunately, that gives them a good chance of getting a foothold, and establishing a population if we don’t manage to track all these guys down pretty quick.”
Homer police said on Facebook that placements are available for Grubby’s offspring, so people shouldn’t be afraid to report them.
Grubby has attracted quite a fanbase during her time in Alaska, spurring memes, the hashtag #FreeGrubby and donations to The Alaska Zoo.