Need a break from the bleak news cycle? Look no further than the tale below, a deliciously wacky mashup of two of our favorite categories of stories: Escape Artist Animals and Weird Stuff That Happens in Florida.
As reported by the Palm Beach Post, a 1.2-meter-tall (4-foot) eastern gray kangaroo named Storm has been on the lam since late Monday afternoon, when he escaped from the confines of his enclosure at a privately operated animal sanctuary in Jupiter Farms, Florida. Storm’s owner, Eric Westergard, and wildlife tracking experts from the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have been in pursuit for more than 24 hours, but have yet to spot the exotic marsupial within the swampy landscape of the rural coastal community.
According to the newspaper, Westergard did not notice the 5-year-old kangaroo was missing until Tuesday morning, at which point a handful of his neighbors also became aware that something out of the ordinary had occurred when they saw a kangaroo bounding down the road.
Jupiter Farms resident Denise Cooper helped Storm’s adventure go viral when she posted a cellphone video of him outside her house on Facebook. In the short clip, you can see Storm hop into the middle of the small street in the early morning light, sit on his hind legs, and briefly study his surroundings before loping off down an adjoining lane.
In a media statement, the FWC noted that kangaroos pose little threat to public safety, but that if you should happen upon one unexpectedly, you shouldn't try to approach it. If frightened or threatened, eastern gray kangaroos can lean back on their large tails and dish out powerful leg kicks. They will also defend themselves by biting or scratching.
As the search for Storm continues, the effort has reportedly grown to include at least a dozen officers armed with tranquilizer guns and two drones. The FWC and Westergard are also looking into how he got out in the first place. Westergard’s 148-square-meter (1,600-square-foot) enclosure, home to six other kangaroos, recently passed inspection by FWC captive wildlife regulators. It features 2.4-meter-high (8-foot) fencing.
Kangaroos are one of many non-native animal species that can be kept in Florida as personal pets or for exhibition after filling out a simple permit application. As a result, there is a steady stream of exotic creatures escaping temporarily, or permanently, into the wild, often thrilling and/or terrifying nearby residents in the process. In multiple instances, enough members of the same species have fled captivity and entered the Florida ecosystems to establish a breeding population. The most worrisome example of this is Burmese pythons, which, thanks to adaptations to the hot and humid habitats of Southeast Asia, are exploding in numbers across the Everglades and thus imperiling numerous native species.