Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Tranquilizers, Taser and tackle catch kangaroo on run in Pasco

First it was the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay. Now it's the Mystery Marsupial.

A 5-foot-tall, 200-pound male kangaroo on the loose north of Dade City since Saturday night was tranquilized, Tased and tackled before being captured Sunday.

Its origin remains a mystery.

Pasco County sheriff's Deputy Gene Smith didn't believe it when he got the call at 6:45 a.m.

"A kangaroo?" he thought. "Somebody's screwing with us."

But sure enough, when he drove to the scene, there it was. Standing in the middle of a road in Lacoochee — trees and farm houses on one side, a field to the other — was a kangaroo.

As surprising as it sounds, this is the perfect climate for a kangaroo, said Kathy Stearns, director at Dade City's Wild Things.

The zoo, about 6 miles away from where the kangaroo was caught, has 75 species of animals, including kangaroos, zebras, otters, bears and big cats. And also Cornelius, the famous Mystery Monkey that roamed the bay area for nearly four years before being caught last year in a St. Petersburg neighborhood.

This marsupial is likely kindred spirits with the monkey — both on the run, separated from their own kind, with no owner coming forward.

The Sheriff's Office received a couple of calls Saturday when people spotted a kangaroo on the loose, Smith said. But the marsupial eluded deputies that night.

In the daylight Sunday, its brownish-red fur caught the sun as it looked about. Almost immediately, it jumped away from Smith and another deputy who arrived to catch it.

The two started trying to move the kangaroo toward a nearby fenced-in cell tower.

"We pretty much knew this is where we had to get him corralled, and he went right along with the plan," Smith said. "He wanted to get away from us just as badly as we wanted to get him in there."

Once inside, the kangaroo had about 4 or 5 acres to roam while the deputies waited on backup and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Over the next couple of hours, the kangaroo alternated between resting and checking the perimeter of its enclosure, either looking for a way out or making sure no one was coming in.

Kangaroos are mostly shy animals, Stearns said.

"Typically, they only get really aggressive when they want something or feel threatened by a human," she said. "If they're taught to play with humans, then a full-grown one could hurt us. When you teach an animal to play, he doesn't understand when he grows up and is stronger."

The kangaroos at Dade City Wild Things eat from the caretakers' hands — mostly fruits and vegetables. The thing to watch out for is their hind legs.

"They're powerful kickers and that's what you have to worry about it," Stearns said.

When the wildlife commission showed up Sunday, the plan was to start with tranquilizers.

"They tried the tranquilizer gun four or five times, and this thing, man, it was definitely a powerful animal," Smith said. "It had no intention of going to sleep. We were so desperate to not have to shoot it we even tried our Tasers on it, but that didn't work either."

With tranquilizer darts hanging from its body, the kangaroo had finally had enough. It made a run for freedom, jumping the fence and aiming for a hole in the perimeter of squad cars.

That's when a bystander, one of many who had gathered to watch authorities try to capture the animal, made a move. He ran toward the kangaroo and tackled it. They fell against the fence and down to the ground.

Smith, knowing how strong the kangaroo was, jumped in. He took a couple kicks from the animal's strong legs before they managed to pin it down.

"They'll kick the snot out of you, that's for sure," Smith said. "But he was nice and he was getting pretty sedated by the time we had our hands on him. At that point was like, 'Okay, you got me. Take me away.' "

Spotted near Mickler Road, the kangaroo now is being held in a pen near Cumber Road and U.S. 301 in Lacoochee.

People can own a kangaroo as long as they have a permit, the Sheriff's Office said.

But they must file a report with FWC when one escapes, spokesman Gary Morse said.

A commercial kangaroo farm operates not far from where the marsupial was captured. Its owner, John Chatfield, is the only one in the area who has kangaroos on file with wildlife authorities, Morse said.

But Chatfield told deputies this one is not his. He did not return a message Sunday afternoon from the Tampa Bay Times.

It's unclear what will happen to the animal if it isn't claimed.

"Obviously, we'd try to find a place for it," Morse said. "We'll have to find the person who has it. Whoever owns it has a record for it and has to have a permit. It's likely to show up in somebody's inventory some place."

Regardless of where it came from, locals likely will be talking of this escape for some time.

"Every time I say I've seen it all, I'm proven otherwise," Smith said. "I've learned to stop saying that."

Comments
Jobsite’s ‘The Tempest’ balances reverence and irreverence in a busy Shakespeare tribute

Jobsite’s ‘The Tempest’ balances reverence and irreverence in a busy Shakespeare tribute

TAMPA — The Tempest begins with shadow play, a ship tossed on high seas. Projected onto a backdrop, the shadow of that ship looks proportionate to the waves that rock it. You see this, even as a daemonic spirit holds a toy replica in her hand, the ac...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Police: Driver rear-ends school bus in Clearwater

Police: Driver rear-ends school bus in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A driver rear-ended Monday a school bus on the way to Safety Harbor Middle. None of the 38 students on board were hurt in the crash in the eastbound lanes of NE Coachman Road just west of U.S. 19, according to Clearwater police. Most boa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier - up to a point, new research shows

Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier - up to a point, new research shows

In recent months, Silicon Valley executives have been speaking out about the purposely addictive designs of smartphones and social media, which make them hard to put down for anyone, but particularly teenagers. Now, a new report puts numbers to the w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Your insider’s guide to Gasparilla 2018; St. Petersburg spilled up to 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water into Smacks Bayou; and more

Top 5 at noon: Your insider’s guide to Gasparilla 2018; St. Petersburg spilled up to 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water into Smacks Bayou; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:YOUR GUIDE TO GASPARILLA 2018Some 300,000 carousers are expected to gather on Saturday for Gasparilla 2018, Tampa’s pirate invasion. All the fuss centers around the legend of Jose Gaspar (nic...
Updated: 1 hour ago

FBI: Marine flares ignited at Florida mall not a terrorist act

LAKE WALES — Police say two devices ignited inside a mall in central Florida on Sunday do not appear to be an act of terrorism.According to the FBI, bomb technicians examining the contents of a backpack found at Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales on Sund...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete spilled up to 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water into Smacks Bayou

St. Pete spilled up to 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water into Smacks Bayou

ST. PETERSBURG — It may be a new year but the city finds itself still dealing with an old problem: spills at its sewage plants.The city announced Thursday that two spills at its Northeast sewage plant at 1160 62nd Ave. NE had been contained.But the r...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sirata Beach Resort is getting a $15-million facelift

Sirata Beach Resort is getting a $15-million facelift

ST. PETE BEACH — A year ago, the longtime owners of the Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center acknowledged they couldn’t afford the improvements it needed. They sold the 382-room hotel to a Texas company.Now the new owner has launched a $15 million...
Updated: 3 hours ago
This is how MoviePass hopes to make money off your low-cost subscription

This is how MoviePass hopes to make money off your low-cost subscription

MoviePass is a film nerd’s dream. The subscription service allows users to see one movie a day at a theater for a single monthly cost. The service isn’t new, but it’s become popular among a lot more than movie buffs in the past few months.During its ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

From the food editor: Mastering the frittata, with help from a lot of mozzarella cheese

Let’s talk about frittatas. Specifically, how I can never seem to make one that actually tastes good. They are described in blogs and cookbooks as an easy, breezy dish suitable for using up leftovers lingering in your fridge. Like a quiche, but low-c...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida pump prices jump 10 cents, highest in four years

Florida pump prices jump 10 cents, highest in four years

Gas is off to an expensive start this year — the most expensive start since 2014. Florida pump prices jumped 10 cents in the past week to hit $2.54 per gallon Monday, 18 cents more than last month, according to AAA The Auto Club Group. Tampa Bay gas ...
Updated: 3 hours ago