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Wallaby's wanderlust has humans hopping


Kanga hadn't been in her new home 10 minutes when she abandoned her mate, Roo -- squeezing under a small hole in the fence with their baby, Joey, tucked in her pouch.

Kanga is a 28-inch-tall wallaby, and Roo a 30-incher -- miniature kangaroos, if you will -- that Anita and Philip Jones had brought home to Queenstown on Friday, only to have Kanga find a tiny gap in the fenced pen and hop off into the Eastern Shore sunset.

Yesterday, Kanga was still a wallaby on the loose. And the Joneses, who recently bought the marsupial family unit from a Church Hill couple, were pleading for the public to be on the lookout for a passing wallaby.

The only credible sighting had come day before yesterday, from a farmer who saw a strange creature on a field between Queenstown and Centreville. He thought it was a sick raccoon, an oversize sick raccoon, until she started hopping around," Mrs. Jones said,

The Joneses, who are offering a reward for Kanga's capture, had hoped to breed Kanga and Roo and raise the babies to be house pets.

"They're very docile," Mrs. Jones said. "They're considered to be like domesticated animals."

If hand-raised and bottle-fed, as the Joneses had hoped to rear Joey, "they hop around the house after you. They hop right up in your lap. One lady who raises them hangs a hand-made pouch on the side of a mesh play pen and the baby just hops in the pouch at night."

Mrs. Jones said she and her husband did not know Kanga had a Joey until they got her home. "Because the babies are so tiny, the only way you can tell if they are pregnant is when the baby sticks its head out and that's at about six months," she said.

"I'm just worried about the baby," Mrs. Jones said. "If she gets in a panic, Joey could fall out or she could take him out."

Kanga's adventure began Friday afternoon, soon after she and her mate were settled in their new home.

The Joneses had set up a small wooden house for the Australian critters in the back yard of their residence in Wye Harbor Estates. Mrs. Jones said she didn't notice the 3-inch gap in the bottom of the 6-foot high fence. Kanga obviously did.

"She was sniffing the grass and they were playing around," Mrs. Jones said. "Then she just scooted out. We looked away for two or three seconds and she was out of there."

Roo apparently was not pleased at the downturn in marsupial matrimony: "He started jumping up and down and banging his head up against the fence when she left," Mrs. Jones said. "He's very upset. He's still jumping around and pacing."

Mrs. Jones said she called the police to report the wallaby's departure, "then we got in the car and went looking for her," she said.

The search was partially successful. At 6 p.m. on Friday, about three hours after the escape, Mrs. Jones spotted Kanga in a field off Route 18, a quarter of a mile from home.

"When she saw me, she just took off," Mrs. Jones said.

Since word of the wallaby's wanderings spread through the community, Mrs. Jones said, she has received a few calls from people reporting sightings. But no one has been able to corner Kanga.

Anyone who gets close to Kanga should not touch the baby, Mrs. Jones said. If the baby should fall out of its mother's pouch, it must be taken to a veterinarian immediately to be put on intravenous fluids, Mrs. Jones said. Otherwise, it will die.

Kanga, who was not hand-raised, probably will not come to anyone, not even to eat out of someone's hand, Mrs. Jones added. And she can hop 8 feet high if she's frightened. The best chance for capture: A veterinarian could aim a shot of Valium at her from a tranquilizer gun, if he could get close enough.

"She's wild," Mrs. Jones said. "People should just call us or the police. It's going to be hard to catch her."

Where to call

If you think you've spotted Kanga, call Queenstown Animal Control at (410) 758-2393, or the closest state police barracks, or the Joneses, at (410) 827-6826.

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