Game Commision trying to track missing marsupial

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011

A Pennsylvania Game Commission officer believes someone out there is illegally harboring a wallaby.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Randy Pilarcik said he saw the wallaby in June in an enclosure outside the Jefferson Township home of Kenneth G. Ott, who he has cited before for illegally keeping exotic animals.

But the wallaby was gone a few days later when Pilarcik returned to the home. It's been six months since the second visit and the marsupial still hasn't been seen.

Ott, 60, last week waived his right to a preliminary hearing before Saxonburg District Judge Sue Haggerty. He is charged with tampering with evidence, a misdemeanor, and three summary counts of the unlawful importation of wildlife.

Ott referred questions to his attorney, Jeff Myers. Myers did not return a call for comment Monday.

Pilarcik said Monday authorities believe the wallaby is being kept by someone for Ott and is not loose in the wild.

Pilarcik said he is not aware of anyone in Butler County who is permitted by the state to keep the animal.

Pilarcik said he had reason to go to Ott's Dusty Lane home on June 10 after a neighbor on Caldwell Drive about a half mile away caught a coatimundi, another exotic animal, and was holding it in a barn.

Coatimundis are native to South and Central America and southwestern North America and are members of the raccoon family.

Pilarcik said he had cited Ott in November 2010 for illegally importing and possessing two coatimundis. Those animals were sent to a sanctuary in eastern Pennsylvania, Pilarcik said.

The animals are believed to have been purchased at auctions in Ohio, Pilarcik said. Ohio is noted for lax exotic animal laws.

In court papers, Pilarcik said he went to Ott's home to see if Ott knew anything about the coatimundi his neighbor caught. While on Ott's front porch, Pilarcik said he saw a wallaby inside a fenced-in area next to the porch.

Ott was not home that day. He was not home again when Pilarcik and another officer returned on June 13, but Pilarcik said the wallaby was still there. A neighbor told them Ott was at work and would return in the evening. When Pilarcik and another officer came back, Ott was home, but the wallaby was gone.

According to court papers, Ott denied knowing anything about the caught coatimundi. He claimed the wallaby belonged to someone else who had just left his home after picking it up.

When questioned further, Ott claimed he did not know who the wallaby's owners were or where they lived, only that he had their telephone number.

When asked to call the person to return the wallaby, Ott said he could not call them at that time, but would in a couple of days.

Ott told officers he had the wallaby removed from his residence after a neighbor told him the officers had been there earlier in the day.

A couple days later, Pilarcik said he contacted Ott to see if he had called the person to return the wallaby. But Ott said he didn't want to get it back "and that I should just give him the citation for possessing the wallaby."

Anyone with information about the location of the wallaby is asked to contact the Game Commission at 814-432-3187.

Additional Information:

About the wallaby

Wallabies are members of the kangaroo clan found primarily in Australia and on nearby islands.

All wallabies are marsupials or pouched animals. Their young • which like kangaroos are called joeys • are born tiny, helpless and undeveloped. They crawl into their mothers' pouches where they continue to develop after birth.

Wallabies are typically small- to medium-sized mammals, usually one to four feet in size and weighing between 4 and 53 pounds. By comparison, grey kangaroos are up to 7 feet tall and weigh up to 120 pounds.

Both Wallabies and kangaroos have powerful hind legs used to bound along at high speeds and can jump great distances. They have large and powerful tails used for balance and to prop themselves up in sitting posture. Wallabies are herbivores and the bulk of their diet is grasses and plants.

Source: National Geographic Society.

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