Tie Me Wallaby Down Boys

You’ll have to tie me wallaby down boys – if you want to keep him.

Officials at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife decided to allow Michelle Charette and her family of Island Falls to keep their wallaby, with severe restrictions.

Michelle ran afoul of the law by accepting the gift of a wallaby, an animal that is actually any of about thirty species of macropod, principally found in Australia. It can be vicious, often disemboweling its enemies.

Michelle might have gotten away with her wallaby, except she took it to her son’s baseball game. Someone at the game contacted the Maine Warden Service. I first learned about it in Tom Groening’s June 7 Bangor Daily News story.

Title 12 of Maine State Law, section 7235-A, spells out the requirements to obtain a permit to possess, propagate, and sell wild birds and animals. The law also covers exotic animals and animal parts. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Department of Agriculture share the duties of policing and permitting the possession of these animals.

This is getting to be a very significant burden, particularly to DIF&W which bears most of the permitting and policing burden.

Initially, Andrea Erskine, DIF&W’s Deputy Commissioner, told me that the department’s major concern was making sure the wallaby could be vaccinated for rabies. She eventually learned that there is a rabies vaccine for wallabies, but the animals can’t be vaccinated until they’ve been out of their mother’s pouch for 16 months.

On August 8, DIF&W issued a permit to Charette with the following restrictions: 1) the wallaby’s cage must be constructed in compliance with DIF&W rules; 2) the wallaby is not allowed to roam freely outside a containment area, or taken off Charette’s premises, or taken into a public area, except for transfer or sale, veterinary care, or as otherwise approved by the Commissioner. The wallaby must be controlled at such times by a leash or contained in a cage. 3) Charette’s property must be available for inspection at any time; 4) the wallaby must be spayed and neutered.

And when it gets to be 16 months old, the wallaby will have to be vaccinated against rabies.

Erskine told me recently that in the process of working on this issue, she discovered three other wallabies in Maine, all with appropriate permits.

Apparently the state is awash with exotic animals, and the recent retirement of longtime state veterinarian Donald Hoenig has strained DIF&W’s ability to keep up with the animals, permits, and problems. A new and severe state law governing wolf hybrids has added significantly to the agency’s workload.

To address these problems and issues, Erskine has scheduled a meeting of the state’s Wildlife Technical Committee on September 12.

And if you don’t think any of this matters to you – you’d better read the Outdoor News column titled “Of Bird Feathers and Beaver Skulls” just posted on my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com. Because you are breaking the law!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.