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Fontana's tale of a wallaby's visit

February 07, 2007|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

Last month, Fontana was jolted by a freak snowstorm. This month, a trespassing marsupial.

The 3-foot-tall wallaby startled wide-eyed neighbors in a quiet Fontana neighborhood Tuesday morning as it bounded down the street and into a backyard through an open gate.

Fontana police and animal control officers from San Bernardino were summoned, and "Walter the Wallaby," as one police officer nicknamed him, was whisked away.

"I've only been here 19 years and seen turkeys and peacocks in the street, but never a wallaby," said Sgt. Doug Wagner. "I guess he's the crook from Down Under."

The wallaby -- originally misidentified as a kangaroo, a larger marsupial -- had been in the care of a Fontana resident who was watching it for a vacationing friend, said Joyce Gossman, a San Bernardino animal control officer.

The wallaby broke loose and decided to explore the neighborhood, providing photo ops for residents and an early-morning delight for children on their way to school.

"I came outside and a lady asked me if I saw the kangaroo," said John Ponce, 65. "I looked, and it was just standing by a trash can. It was a sight to see. He looked friendly, though."

Animal control officers grabbed the marsupial and carted him off to a local petting zoo.

"Right now, we are checking to make sure that the owner has the right permits," Gossman said.

"The owner says she has them, but we have to find out if this animal was imported or born domestically."

Still, the wallaby made a topic of conversation for the animal control unit.

"We were in absolute hysterics," Gossman said. "I've never seen anything like this before. It's like, 'Where in the world did you come from, and what on Earth are you doing in Fontana?' "

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

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