Animal Enforcement Officer Bruno Genis spends most days running calls about unruly dogs and cats in Baltimore. His wildlife calls are usually for raccoons, bats and deer.
Then came last Thursday.
Genis had just started his shift when he was called to West Baltimore near Druid Hill Park. A woman had been startled by something in her alley. And he had never heard these words over his radio: baby kangaroo.
He and his partner jumped in the truck and headed for Reservoir Hill. The caller, meanwhile, told a family member who told a friend. News of her report reached the internet.
“Apparently there’s a kangaroo loose near Druid hill park,” the friend wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.
The post would be viewed 1.3 million times, more than double the population of Baltimore. The post inspired a Reddit thread and internet jokes about the second coming. Phones started ringing at the Maryland Zoo.
Genis and his partner searched, but they were stumped. When they asked whether people had seen a kangaroo, they got nothing but laughs.
“It’s almost like an urban legend,” he said. “Like Nessie or Bigfoot — the B’More Roo.”
Could a baby kangaroo be living in the alleys of West Baltimore? Did someone’s exotic pet hop away? (Baltimore prohibits pet kangaroos.) In this strange, surprising city, anything was possible.
That evening, a neighbor called Doris Hill with the gossip. Did she see the kangaroo?
“I said, ‘One of us must have been drinking or smoking something,” Hill recalled, laughing.
She thought it over, though, and decided that she could not rule out a kangaroo in West Baltimore. After all, a 1,600-pound bull trotted through these streets.
“Never say never,” Hill told a reporter the day after the report of a kangaroo. “These are big houses. People have strange pets.”
Hill directed a reporter to the homes around the corner. There, on McCulloh Street, lives Victoria Howard.
Each morning, the 73-year-old opens her back door and lets out her Pomeranian rescue dog, Georgie. When Howard let out Georgie on Thursday, she noticed a cat in the alley raising its hackles at something. That’s when Howard saw it.
“It was a kangaroo! I looked and I saw him. I said, ‘Whooee! Come on Georgie!’ I scooped him up and ran.”
Howard gestured about waist-high. “It must have been a baby.”
She met a reporter in the alley and pointed to an overturned black trash can. It was right there, she insisted. Now, any skeptical reporter has questions.
Could it have been a baby deer?
“I know a deer.”
Has she ever seen a kangaroo?
“Yeah, on TV.”
Any vision trouble?
“No, I’m not crazy either.”
Less than a mile away is the Maryland Zoo. Maybe the marsupial hopped the fence and made off. A kangaroo on the lam would not be entirely unprecedented in Baltimore.
A kangaroo escaped in June 1969 after an appearance on local TV and led police cars down Reisterstown Road, The Baltimore Sun reported. The kangaroo’s caper ended sadly, when the animal suffered a broken leg and had to be shot.
More recently, in October 2004, animal control officers caught a wallaby — like a kangaroo, but smaller — in the woods of northern Anne Arundel County. The wallaby had evaded capture for months to the delight of families in Severn. Some fed it apples, corn and white bread.
News stations reported kangaroo escapes in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Jacksonville, Arkansas, in recent years. And just for fun, there was the spectacle in the 1970s when a delegate from Montgomery County brought the marsupial to Annapolis and trotted it out before a House committee to endorse Australian kangaroo protections.
Maryland Zoo Communications Director Mike Evitts settled much of the speculation by email last week.
“We don’t have kangaroos, and haven’t in quite some time,” Evitts said.
A construction worker at Druid Hill Park had heard the critter wasn’t a kangaroo, but an escaped koala bear.
“We don’t have those, either,” Evitts said.
The zoo maintains tight security. Staff check the animals morning and night.
So nothing escaped?
This urban legend might have ended there: an uncorroborated sighting, a day of shoe-leather reporting and plenty of incredulous looks. Then Howard’s daughter sent footage from a surveillance camera in the alley. Sure enough, a brown figure scampers past and confronts the cat before Georgie runs it off.
“This is a red fox,” said Margaret Rose-Innes, the zoo’s curator, who reviewed the footage. “They’re native to Maryland and it’s not uncommon for them to live in the city as they’re extremely adaptable. As you can see in the video, they’re not a threat to pets, and are much more likely to be on the hunt for rodents.”
Well, there’s no reason to spoil Howard’s sighting or the internet’s delight. Let it rest there.
Let us just live in a Baltimore of wonder, where the alleys hold baby kangaroos.