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It was the case of the missing marsupial.
After it emerged that a stowaway opossum had been spotted aboard a late-night subway train last week in Brooklyn, forcing the evacuation of fellow riders and a delay on the D line lasting nearly 30 minutes, one key question remained unanswered:
What happened to the opossum?
Some officials claimed the creature had been given to a Manhattan animal care center, but the city insisted it had no record of having received it. The police said the opossum had been carried away in a cage, but no subway workers could recall such details.
It seemed the only place where the marsupial had unequivocally turned up was on Twitter, where a wag writing under the name of “SubwayPossum” claimed he was partying with Jay-Z and mired in negotiations for a tell-all memoir.
The truth, now that it has finally come out, is more reassuring, if not as glamorous.
But first, a few details of the opossum’s unauthorized journey must be recounted.
The enterprising animal was reported on the D train around 4 a.m. on Friday, and by 4:30 it had been contained by the police, though after some resistance involving the baring of teeth. The officers locked the opossum inside the train car, which was taken out of service and sent to the rail yards near 205th Street in the Bronx.
The train arrived at 5 a.m., at which point the doors were sealed. There the opossum sat for nine hours, with no heat, food or water, as transit officials waited for animal control workers to respond. The average temperature on Friday was a chilly 39 degrees, but one local expert believed the quarantine did not do the animal any harm.
“Assuming that possum had eaten and drank fairly close to the time it got on the car, nine hours wouldn’t really have affected it,” said Mickey Wright, president of Critter Control in Westchester County. Opossums, he added, “can go for a day or two without food.”
There may even have been a perk: “He’s one of the only beings in New York City to ever have a subway car to himself,” a spokesman for New York City Transit, Charles F. Seaton, said.
At 2 p.m., police officers from the local precinct arrived to assess the situation. Initial reports had the officers taking the opossum to a Harlem shelter run by New York Animal Care and Control, which routinely handles skunks, raccoons and snakes. (One worker said a tiger showed up once.)
But city officials said they “triple- and quadruple-checked” and found no mention of an opossum’s being picked up and dropped off.
Late Thursday afternoon, an e-mail arrived from the Police Department. It turned out that officers in the Bronx had summoned a group of emergency service officers, an elite squad that handles complex jobs, including capturing rogue coyotes and apartment-invading hawks.
It was only then that the opossum was removed from the D train and, as a police spokesman put it, “released into an adjoining wooded area.”
The opossum’s rescuers also bestowed a name on the animal: Jerome, after the avenue in the Bronx that runs alongside the rail yard. Jerome has not been seen, or heard from, since.
Credits: By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM, www.NY Times.com