CHESTER — When Jared Spinale called police to report an opossum in a gas grill it sounded like a routine animal call until they asked for the address and learned that the teenager lived on …well ... Opossum Drive.
“We honestly thought it was a joke at first,” Master Patrol Officer Andrew DiPerri said as he recalled the night when he and Sgt. William Sable responded to that call on Opossum Drive, which is located off Red Squirrel Lane and across from Muskrat Circle.
The Feb. 23 incident was no laughing matter for Spinale, 15, who was a bit startled when he discovered the medium-sized marsupial chilling out in the grill. (See video at unionleader.com)
“We were grilling burgers that night, or we were going to at least. I turned it on and I opened it up and saw something moving back and forth. I turned off the flame because I didn’t want to hurt it,” he said.
Spinale, a sophomore at Pinkerton Academy, decided it was best to get some help from police.
DiPerri has handled calls about dogs, raccoons and other animals, but opossums aren’t a regular problem — even on Opossum Drive.
Sable stood by to assist as DiPerri put on his Bitebuster gloves and headed for the grill. It was the first time he’s used the gloves, which usually offer protection when handling dogs.
“I wasn’t sure going into it how the best way to get the opossum out of the grill would be,” he said. “It didn’t want me grabbing it at first. I had to keep moving pieces of the grill out.”
As the officers began their wild encounter, Spinale’s mother grabbed her phone to record the dinnertime rescue.
It didn’t take long for DiPerri to pull out the opossum and carry the animal off into the woods where it was released.
“I think he was happy to not be in the grill,” he said, adding that the opossum is lucky the teen shut off the grill before the animal suffered burns.
Animal calls can keep officers busy, which is why Police Chief Aaron Berube wants to add $3,500 to the police budget to hire an animal control officer on a per-diem basis.
“We don’t have an animal control officer. Our officers provide the best service that they can with the resources that we have,” he said.
While officers could still help with animal calls, Berube said an animal control officer would be able to handle routine calls and “dramatically reduce the time we spend on animal control.”