There are hundreds of strange-animal sightings across Pennsylvania each year, and some of them turn out to be factual.

The latest seems to fall into that group.

People in Fleetwood, Berks County, have been reporting sightings of a wallaby – sort of a small kangaroo – around town and in various backyards since last weekend.

The reports are getting a lot of air time from local television stations, including some actual footage of the animal munching shrubbery.

The Associated Press said that the reports primarily have been fielded by the Berks County Humane Society, which has put out baited traps in the hopes of catching the aberrant marsupial.

Nobody has yet stepped forward to say the animal in question was stocked by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as part of a secret plan, funded by insurance companies, to further reduce the deer herd. But, that can’t be far behind. Certainly, when the wallaby is finally captured, word will spread via the rumor mill that it’s ears bore tags with game commission insignia.

The AP said Berks County Human Society officer Dylan Heckart speculated that the wallaby might be an escaped pet, considering that the nearest zoo – about 20 miles away in Schnecksville – denied missing one. But nobody believes that excuse when the game commission uses it to explain mountain lion sightings, nor did they years ago when a tiger was seen roaming the Poconos.

The accepted explanation outside official circles was, again, that the game commission was stocking tigers because the coyotes it supposedly had stocked weren’t trimming the deer herd quickly enough.

Just how this translates into stocking wallabies isn’t quite clear. They are herbivores, after all, so anyone who argued that they were brought here from their native haunts of Australia and Papua New Guinea to eat deer would have an instant credibility problem. Not, of course, that it would necessarily prevent such a declaration.

In any case, the Humane Society officer has warned the public not to attempt to apprehend the wallaby, as he said they can be violent and might inflict serious injury if captured.

Meanwhile, the wallaby runs free. And unless someone, somewhere, admits to turning it loose in Berks County, it will continue to do so, joining a long list of out-of-place wildlife that appears without explanation to provide fodder for the paranoid.

It certainly has a lot of company. It joins a road-killed armadillo in Blair County, an emu on the loose on a Clearfield County game land, and a pair of road-killed wolves, just for starters.

And, if the wallaby decides to get a drink, it will have to be alert to a potential ambush from what many believe to be piranhas, several other species of tropical fish, a smattering of alligators and crocodiles, and the three-plus-foot shark that recently washed up in December on the banks of Mahoning Creek near Punxsutawney, all of which have made verified – if brief – appearances in Pennsylvania.

And all of them have been explained away as escaped or released pets, rationalizations largely accepted by the public at large.

But, the Berks county case isn’t the only out-of-place wallaby to make an appearance this month. One was reportedly killed on a Connecticut highway just days into the new year. But, at least, we know where it came from. The owner came forward and said that it had escaped, going nearly two miles before it’s freedom ended on the bumper of a car.

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