Woodbine resident Grant Hill said his wife, Joanne, has always loved animals, so much so that she has brought home a dog, a cat, a donkey, a cow -- and two wallabies.
She bought the 3-foot-tall, kangaroo-like animals, Elliott and Kaylee, three years ago in Pennsylvania to breed. It was a seemingly private affair until yesterday morning, when Elliott escaped from their property near Interstate 70.
Police officers, notified by a passing motorist, tried to catch Elliott. The wallaby, frightened by the chase, ran into a car and died en route to Howard County Animal Hospital in Ellicott City.
"My wife is on a plane now, so she doesn't even know yet," Hill said. "I don't know what she will say."
The incident started about 7: 20 a.m. when a motorist called to say there was a "kangaroo" on the side of the road.
"The person said they recognized the animal because they had just come back from a trip to Australia," said Sgt. Morris Carroll, Howard County Police Department spokesman.
Four state and two county police officers who responded said the 40-pound animal presented an unusual challenge.
"He was quick," said state police Cpl. James Dewees. "He did a Barry Sanders move on some of the officers," he said, referring to the Detroit Lions running back.
By about 8: 10 a.m., officers had surrounded the wallaby and blocked part of the highway at Morning Station Road. The wallaby escaped again and ran into a car on the eastbound side, said Trooper Eric Diggs.
"The only thing we could do is try to contain it until animal control arrived," Dewees said. "We were trying to corral it, and it ran into the road."
The car's driver-side door and front panel were damaged, but the driver was uninjured, Diggs said.
Hill said Elliott's reaction to the chase appears to have been a wallaby instinct.
"When they are scared, they run into things. They will try to kill themselves so they aren't scared anymore," he said. "It hit the car; the car didn't hit it."
Hill said he learned the wallaby was missing when his son pointed it out. They checked the fence surrounding the property and found a gate latch was broken.
While Hill was looking, the police found Elliott.
Wallabies are members of the kangaroo family but are smaller. They are herbivores and live about seven years in the wild and 14 years in captivity.
The other wallaby is doing fine. She is pregnant, with a birth expected in August, Hill said.
He said the family hasn't decided whether to buy another wallaby, which are valued at as much as $2,000 each. He said he knows of two other wallabies in the state, both on the Eastern Shore.
"That's my wife's department," he said. "I am just going to go out and buy a new latch."
Pub Date: 2/06/99