LACOOCHEE - The adventures of an escaped kangaroo have evolved from action-packed chase sequence to drawing-room mystery.
With the kangaroo safely in custody after its weekend capture, investigators are pondering such questions as where the wandering marsupial came from and how it ended up hanging out in the vicinity of U.S. 301 in Lacoochee.
Baryl Martin, an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, doesn't expect the mystery to remain a mystery long.
"I think we'll have a resolution by the end of the week," he said Wednesday.
Right now, some of the focus is on a kangaroo breeding farm on Mickler Road in Lacoochee, even though the owner of that farm, John Chatfield, has told investigators the animal is not one of the more than 50 he keeps on his property. Chatfield could not be reached for comment.
The farm is to undergo an inspection this week to make sure the owner is abiding by the stipulations of his permit to keep the animals, Martin said.
The property already undergoes routine inspections, Martin said.
The 5-foot, 200-pound kangaroo created something of a sensation over the weekend after someone called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office just before 1 a.m. Sunday to say, "A kangaroo is almost getting hit on the highway. We are trying to keep him out of the highway."
The wily animal eluded deputies and wildlife officers, even after being shot with tranquilizer darts, but was eventually tackled by a 46-year-old man who had brought his family out to watch the excitement.
The kangaroo was taken to Chatfield's farm for temporary keeping. If the ownership question is never resolved, a suitable permanent home would be found for the kangaroo, Martin said.
Because of the ongoing criminal investigation, Martin declined to give many details about how wildlife officials are proceeding with their inquiry, though he said there are "a couple of ways" investigators can use to try to link the kangaroo to a particular owner.
Whoever owns the kangaroo could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor of improper caging, which can carry a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.
Floridians can't own a kangaroo without a captive wildlife permit from the state.
Animals that fall under the captive wildlife designation are divided into three classes, with Class 1 animals considered the most dangerous and Class 3 the least dangerous.
A tiger, for example, would be Class 1 because of its predatory nature.
The less aggressive kangaroo ranks as Class 3 because it's not generally considered a threat to people.
"Any animal can be dangerous when it's cornered," Martin said. "But it doesn't see you as a food source."