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August 11, 2022

3/7/2013 6:00:00 PM
Eight years later, Iowa County kangaroo still a mystery
The Iowa County Kangaroo was found and captured at the residence of Janelle Simpson on January 5, 2005. No one has ever been able to positively identify the kangaroo as theirs.
The Iowa County Kangaroo was found and captured at the residence of Janelle Simpson on January 5, 2005. No one has ever been able to positively identify the kangaroo as theirs.
Brooke Bechen
Reporter/News and Features

If you lived in or around the Dodgeville area in 2005, then you certainly heard the story of the Iowa County Kangaroo. News outlets all across the nation picked up the bizarre story that gave Dodgeville it's fifteen minutes of fame and left local residents puzzled for years to come.
The first phone call to the Iowa County Sheriff's Department came in on Monday, January 3 at 6:59 p.m. with another call shortly after, both reporting something so strange that the dispatcher had to ask "are you sure?"
Janelle Simpson, a resident who lives on a horse farm outside of Dodgeville, called the Sheriff's Department around 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 5 to report she had spotted the kangaroo hopping around her home while she was out doing chores that snowy morning.
Iowa County Sheriff Steve Michek arrived at the horse farm and surveyed the property for the Australian animal. Finally, the sheriff saw something he never thought he would see in Wisconsin: a large, 150 pound, red kangaroo with a blanket of snow covering his coat.
The Iowa County Sheriff's Department, with the help of Dodgeville Police and Fire, were able to corral the kangaroo into a barn on Simpson's property. The animal seemed easy to lure into a fenced area of the barn, leaving some to believe it was someone's pet.
Those who had the chance to see the kangaroo that snowy day in January nicknamed the animal "Roo."
After successfully capturing the animal without the use of a tranquilizer gun, the kangaroo was transported to Henry Vilas Zoo, where zoo officials kept the animal in quarantine for 30 days while they examined it.
Eight years later, the Iowa County kangaroo is still a mystery, with no one able to come forward and positively identify the kangaroo that was found.
The kangaroo had been residing at Henry Vilas Zoo, until it's death on December 3, 2008.
"We had a couple other kangaroos here at the time," Jeff Stafford, Henry Vilas Zoo Curator said.
Three other kangaroos made up the kangaroo exhibit at the zoo. The zoo also contains a wallaby exhibit. The wallaby is another Australian native and is similar to a kangaroo, only smaller.
Henry Vilas Zoo employees never named the kangaroo, just referred to it as the "Iowa County Kangaroo," Stafford said.
When the kangaroo first came to the zoo, zoo employees examined the animal to try to determine how old it was. Animal experts were unable to determine the exact age of the kangaroo, but did note that the animal was an "older animal."
Experts at the zoo were able to determine the kangaroo was relatively old by examining the dental records of the kangaroo. Upon arrival at the zoo, several teeth were extracted and analyzed.
"It was an interesting time," Stafford said. "There was a lot of media and it went international."
Aside from the media attention that spanned across the globe, a children's book was also written with the Iowa County Kangaroo as it's subject.
Jean Rennebohm wrote the book "The Mysterious Kangaroo--It's Absolutely True," in 2007 as a gift for children in the Robert and Jean Rennebohm Special Procedures Clinic at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison.
Rennebohm's late husband, Bob Rennebohm, had the nickname of "Boomer" so the author named the kangaroo in her book after her husband. It's also fitting since a male kangaroo is referred to as a "boomer."
A seven foot tall kangaroo statue was even erected at the Henry Vilas Zoo and dedicated to Bob and Jean Rennebohm.
Although the Iowa County Kangaroo had an identifying mark on it that might have been the key to solving the mystery, no one has ever been able to correctly identify the animal.
Facilities often put an identification marking on animals that are hard to acquire, leading Stafford and other officials to believe the animal had been captive and was being cared for by someone. In Wisconsin, the private ownership of a kangaroo is legal.
Stafford added that four or five people came forward and claimed ownership of the kangaroo, but none of them were able to positively identify the marking.
"People do have them as pets," Stafford said. "But we have no idea how it got there."
With the death of the Iowa County Kangaroo in 2008, it is possible the mystery will never be solved, making it one bizarre story that will be told around this area for many years to come.

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