LACOOCHEE - A kangaroo that was captured after six hours on the run in Pasco County has died, wildlife officials said Friday. Authorities also said they had filed charges against the animal's owner. The kangaroo died Sunday shortly after being captured and returned to its owner, John Chatfield, who owns a kangaroo breeding farm on Mickler Road in Lacoochee and has a state permit to keep the animals. The kangaroo's death was caused by several factors, said Baryl Martin, a spokesman and conservation initiative officer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It suffered from excited delirium because of the increase heart rate during the pursuit. The stress from the escape was also a contributing factor along with darts from a tranquilizer gun, Martin said.
An investigation by the commission determined the kangaroo belonged to Chatfield, spokesman Gary Morse said. After the kangaroo was captured, it was returned to Chatfield's farm for temporary keeping. It died in his custody, Martin said. Martin couldn't explain why it took five days to inform the public that the kangaroo had died. He said he learned about it Friday night. Chatfield was charged with improper caging which resulted in escape, a second-degree misdemeanor, Martin said Friday. The charge can carry a fine of up to $500 and/or 60 days in jail. Chatfield could not be reached for comment. The breeding farm, which has more than 50 kangaroos, had been a focus of the investigation almost from the beginning, but a wildlife officer said this week that Chatfield denied the kangaroo was his. The 5-foot, 200-pound kangaroo created a stir after someone called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office just before 1 a.m. Sunday to say, "A kangaroo is almost getting hit on the highway (U.S. 301). We are trying to keep him out of the highway." The animal eluded deputies and wildlife officers for several hours, even after being shot with tranquilizer darts, but was eventually tackled by a 46-year-old man who had brought his family out to watch the excitement. [email protected] (813) 371-1853 Twitter: @RBlairTBO