The mystery around a spate of unusual animal sightings on country roads near West Tanfield has been solved with the news that a farmer’s exotic pets have been on the loose.
Confused motorists contacted the Ripon Gazette to report a number of sightings of Australian wallabies in the area.
The elusive animals have turned out to be a trio of marsupials belonging to farmers Tim and Sarah Pybus. They escaped from their field and ran loose around the village earlier in the year.
Sarah said: “The first sightings after they escaped were outside the pub car park. A lot of people thought they must be inebriated when they saw them.”
The wallabies – given the names Wally, Sheila and Jason by the farmers’ three daughters – escaped after a low-flying military helicopter spooked them and the llamas that share their field.
The trio jumped the fence in late January and lived wild around the village before reappearing outside the family home around a week later.
Wally, Sheila and Jason were well-known to neighbours and the Pybus family’s telephone “never stopped ringing” with tales of unexpected sightings around the area.
“They got loose in the shooting season and lived up in the woods for a bit. At one point we heard one had squared up to a gamekeeper’s dog, but it was the dog that ran away,” Tim said.
Female Sheila came home after a week of life on the wild side, Tim said. “We found her sitting by the garden wall, just waiting to be let back into the field.”
A few days later Wally reappeared, and Tim and Sarah soon realised that Sheila was carrying a joey in her pouch.
Unfortunately for the third wallaby the adventure did not end so well.
Jason remained on the loose and was spotted several times before a friend of Tim and Sarah called with the news that he had found the missing wallaby’s body not far away.
“We don’t know if he’d got a kick from a horse, or had been run over,” Sarah said.