A MAN has come forward to claim West Dorset’s fugitive wallaby as his adopted pet – called Wally.

The runaway was captured when the town’s fire chief Virgil Turner rugby tackled it with the help of two West Dorset District Council street cleaners.

Until now it has been a mystery where the animal came from, but this week a Chard resident has come forward.

Chris Beer, 66, said he instantly recognised Wally when the story of him bouncing around a Lyme Regis garden, featured in last week’s Echo, went national.

Mr Beer said: “I knew straight away it was him.”

He said he had Wally for four months after he believed it escaped from Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park about 18 months ago.

He added: “We sort of adopted him. We had a great big enclosure in Winsham where it lived. I could get within about two or three feet of him.

“There was no need to feed him, he was quite capable of surviving in the wild.

“But he went AWOL last July.”

However, a spokesman for Cricket St Thomas said: "Warner Leisure Hotels carefully rehoused all of its animals last summer and each wallaby was safely accounted for after the move."

The wallaby was first spotted in Lyme Regis last week in Jan Cooper’s garden in Blue Waters Drive, but it hopped over the fence and disappeared.

Then it was seen around the town as fears for its safety grew following near misses by traffic.

District council street cleaners Tom Ashe and Rob Arthur were stunned when the animal bounded up to the sweeper cab.

They first saw it on the seafront and later in the Lym Close area.

Mr Ashe said: “We then had a couple of attempts at catching it but it was only on the third go, with help from Virgil Turner from Dorset Fire and Rescue, that we finally managed to pin him down and put him into a cage.”

The men managed to corner it in a driveway near The London Inn, Church Street.

Mr Turner said: "I just went down to have a look and was just saying it was going to be difficult to catch, and with that it bolted.

“So I just rugby tackled it, grabbed its back legs and its tail and the two council boys grabbed its head and put a cloth over it. Then we had to wait 10 minutes for John King, who runs self drive boats at the end of the Cobb, to get a cage for it."

The runaway was picked up at the Cobb by Andrew Collier, owner of Axe Valley Bird and Animal park near Axminster, who will re-home it with their 14 wallabies.

He said: "It appears to be in perfect nick.

“They will live happily out in the wild. There are feral populations in about three or four places in the UK."

But Mr Beer, a retired development engineer, is unhappy that Wally has been captured.

He said: “I’m very annoyed that he has been captured because he was quite happy living in the wild.”

Mr Beer said he would get in touch with the animal park to visit Wally.