Members of a Boston neighborhood Facebook group who rallied around a plan to liberate an oversized lobster living in a tank at a local Roche Bros. Supermarket successfully delivered the clawed creature back into the Atlantic Ocean late Friday afternoon.
The idea to free the large crustacean, which had been named “Larry,” an apparent reference to the muscular “Larry the Lobster” character from the Nickelodeon series “SpongeBob SquarePants,” began last week after Courtney Childress happened upon him while on a trip to the grocery store in West Roxbury.
Childress, 30, said Larry, his bulbous claws clamped shut by rubber bands, was front and center in the tank by the store’s seafood section.
But it wasn’t just Larry’s unusual size that caught her eye — the smaller, more-likely-to-be-sold lobsters surrounding Larry all seemed to be cowering in the far reaches of the tank, she said, as if they feared the larger occupant’s commanding presence.
“I noticed he was taking up the whole tank, and all the little lobsters were really scared of him,” she said. “One tried to walk by him and he did this claw smash, and was clearly being like, ‘Get back to your corner.’ ”
Childress said she asked the clerk about Larry and was told he had been in the tank since around Valentine’s Day. She felt as though Larry’s size was making living conditions uncomfortable for both him and his roommates.
Childress snapped a photo of the scene, which showed Larry seemingly ostracized by his piled-up peers. She then posted the picture to the neighborhood Facebook group Tuesday, and asked members if they’d be interested in freeing him.
“Anybody have $150 to jail break this 8 lb lobster,” she wrote. “My heart’s breaking for this situation to end, whatever the resolution is.”
The query elicited an immediate response, with some people joking that they should buy Larry and cook him up, and others saying they would pitch in to cover the cost of purchasing Larry so someone could let him go in the ocean.
“Let’s buy him and set them all FREE,” one particularly enthusiastic commenter wrote.
Another said, “I too have noticed him . . . and felt bad. I’m in if anybody finds out about a viable solution to save this big guy.”
Many suggested donating Larry to an aquarium, or checking whether Larry could survive in the wild if let go.
By Thursday, as residents continued to discuss Larry’s fate, Childress had passed the duties of organizing Larry’s escape to Karen Kane, a second member of the Facebook group who promised to purchase the lobster Friday afternoon and reunite him with the harbor along with others. Pictures forwarded to the Globe and posted on Universal Hub, a local blog, showed Larry’s journey from store, to box, to oceanfront views.
“I felt sad about how it was living. I decided to act, to just do it,” said Kane about the rescue. “I felt so grateful I was able to help a helpless being reclaim his life and autonomy. I feel very happy to have done the right thing.”
According to Roche Bros. spokeswoman Dena Kowaloff, the company sells lobsters “Live ‘n Kickin’ ” at its stores.
Customers typically bring them home and enjoy them for dinner, she said in an e-mail, but “we are happy for them to enjoy their purchases however they see fit,” even if that means giving a lobster a second shot at living life below the ocean’s surface.
Although Larry — he ended up weighing around 6 pounds, not 8, according to a store clerk — did indeed make a daring escape back to nature Friday thanks to the concerned citizens, similar efforts to free lobsters locally have not always ended well.
In 2016, two brothers bought a 22-pound lobster from a Massachusetts fish market for $210, and let it loose off Chatham. Two days later, the lobster was found dead in the same area where it was released, according to the Cape Cod Times. Five years prior, a group of Tibetan Buddhists had a bit more luck when they released 534 lobsters they purchased from a wholesaler — but it’s hard to say what happened to them.
Robert C. Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, said he often receives calls from people who want to know if it’s safe to reintroduce a lobster back into the wild. He said he spoke to Childress this week and told her that lobsters will adapt very quickly. “It could live for a long time, depending on where it goes,” he said of Larry. “Any nice saltwater spot would work, and the lobster would take care of itself.”
When asked Friday, after she found out Larry had made it to the coastline, if she was happy with the outcome, Childress said in a message to the Globe that she hopes he “doesn’t wash up soon.”
“Hopefully he can make some babies,” she said, “or go for a nice long swim.”
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.