NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— The case of the missing marsupial continues.
A wallaby from North Salem, which has been missing for three years, reportedly resurfaced last week near the Amawalk Reservoir dam in Somers.
Adam Bosch, director of public affairs for the New York City Environmental Protection Bureau of Water Supply said two DEP Police officers were driving on patrol when they clearly spotted the wallaby in their headlights around 1 a.m. on Jan. 29.
“They watched it hop across from Lake Road to Ashton Road near Amawalk dam when it jumped into the woods pretty quickly,” Bosch said. “These patrol officers receive highly specialized training about all kinds of wildlife. They’re used to seeing deer, coyotes, bobcats and such. They had no doubt that this was a wallaby.”
The two then tracked the animal into the woods using thermal infrared cameras, which are designed to track and photograph humans and other warm-blooded mammals using the heat from their bodies. They continued their search for about an hour through the woods, until 2 a.m. after coming up empty. The officers stopped their search and contacted Yorktown and Westchester County police to let them know about the sighting.
Susan Bush, whose family owned Indy, said the workers tried to capture him, adding “The only way to do so is either with a tranquilizer gun or by the tail.”
Bush, who cautions against others owning a wallaby, said it is not likely the workers were mistaken. Wallabies, with tails nearly 2-feet long, are hard to confuse with deer or dogs.
Dr. Laurie Hess, a veterinarian who has treated Indy, expressed skepticism that he is still alive after all this time.
“I highly doubt that this is true,” she said. “These are animals that would be victimized by predators in no time. They absolutely cannot tolerate the deep freezes we have here in New York. To be alive three years later is just impossible.”
Bosch dismissed assertions that the wallaby could not have survived several winters.
“I’ve done some research and found that there were actually some cases where wallabies have escaped into the woods in Canada and have survived multiple harsh winters,” Bosch said. “These past two winters have been pretty mild, with little snow cover. Since these guys eat what deer eat, it’s plausible that he survived.”
This is not the first time that someone has claimed to have spotted Indy in Westchester since his disappearance on March 21, 2014. He’s been sighted by residents in so many local communities—South Salem, Katonah, Mt. Kisco, Bedford and Lewisboro among them—that Bush refers to Indy as “Westchester’s Wallaby.”
“We’re absolutely shocked that he’s still alive,” Bush said. “We’re very pleased. We’ve had a very few cold winters. It’s amazing.”
Wallabies, which are herbivores, are normally found in Australia and New Guinea, where the climate is much warmer. When he was domesticated, Indy loved staying outside in the spring and summer, but would only spend about an hour-and-a-half outside on an average day in the winter.
“Which of course gave us great concern when he disappeared,” she said.
Living with the family, Indy adapted to their schedule and, besides an afternoon nap, was a diurnal creature. Bush suspects that since living in the wild, Indy has reverted to his nocturnal nature, which is why sightings have dwindled recent years.
Another difficulty in locating Indy is how quiet wallabies are.
“He makes not a noise, not a murmur,” Bush said. “If he came to the back door, you’d have no idea he was there.”
Indy once roamed in his expansive North Salem backyard, which was surrounded by a 6-foot fence. Bush said she still is not sure how he got out, but said he was often spooked by deer that would jump over the fence and into their yard.
“We saw him one afternoon at 3:30, we stopped by to see how he was and he was fine,” she said. “We went back at 5:30 and he was gone.”
Bush believes Indy has remained in the area because he is trying to find his way home. On one occassion, Bush said her neighbors spotted Indy in their backyard, but they had called the wrong number and the wallaby left before the family showed up. That was the closest the family has come to finding Indy, she said.
If Indy is located again, Bush said taking a picture of the animal would help. She said he would likely run away quickly, so unless the person who spots Indy is equipped with a tranquilizer gun, they likely won’t be able to catch him.
Bush said Indy is very docile, friendly and answers to having his name called. She said he eats mostly flowers (to the chagrin of local gardeners), but also enjoys snacking on carrots, Triscuits, sweet potatoes and apples. Bush welcomes calls from people who believe they spotted him, but asks for people not to call in the middle of the night as she likely wouldn’t be able to see or catch Indy at that time anyway. She can be reached at 914-669-0006.
If Indy ever returns home, Bush said she would try and find a place for him in a zoo.