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Welcome, Homer: Stowaway opossum finds new home at zoo

Dec. 1, 2023, 10:04 a.m.
Topic: Arrivals and departures
Homer the opossum looks at the camera

What a long, strange trip it’s been for the Oregon Zoo’s newest nocturnal resident. After a lengthy sea voyage, months on the lam and a plane ride across North America, Homer the opossum is finally settling into his new home at the Oregon Zoo. 

In early 2023, Homer’s mom, Grubby, stowed away in a cargo container bound for Homer, Alaska. Because there isn’t a population of opossums in Alaska, the crew at the arrival dock attempted to trap her. But Grubby escaped and spent the next two months evading wildlife officials, attracting the attention of local media, and giving birth to at least five youngsters, known as joeys. 

In May, Grubby and her new family were found and taken to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. One of the joeys, now known as Homer, arrived in Oregon earlier this month.

“Homer had quite the adventure getting here,” said Eliza Lee, who oversees the Oregon Zoo’s ambassador animal program. “He’s made himself right at home — he loves snuggling up in a hammock or using his nose to explore.” 

Opossums — the only marsupials found in North America — are considered invasive in the Pacific Northwest as well as Alaska. Here, though, there’s already a large population. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Virginia opossum was first introduced in Oregon between 1910 and 1921. Populations were established in northwestern Oregon apparently from releases of animals brought to the state as pets or novelties.

A stowaway no more, Homer is living behind the scenes in the zoo’s ambassador animal area. While he’s getting used to his surroundings and care staff for now, Lee hopes he’ll venture out soon to meet visitors as a representative of his species — one that’s often misunderstood.

“Some people are scared of opossums, but Homer has such a sweet and gentle personality,” Lee said. “We hope he can help connect people to opossums in a fun new way.”