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7 kangaroos return to Florida sanctuary

October 3, 2018
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Eric Westergard with his kangaroo, Storm, who was captured Thursday after being on the loose for a few days in Jupiter Farms, Fla.

JUPITER FARMS, Fla. -- Three words summed up a tumultuous week at Eric Westergard’s house:

“It’s been wild.”

A week ago Monday evening, Storm the kangaroo hopped out of his enclosure, leaving behind six of his fellow kangaroos at Westergard’s Jupiter Farms sanctuary.

The search for the 5-year-old kangaroo captivated Palm Beach County and made national news.

Storm was found, unharmed, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

But Westergard’s week wasn’t over.

Because Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators found “deficiencies” in their enclosure, all seven kangaroos were temporarily removed until Westergard fixed the issues.

While the kangaroos spent the weekend at an undisclosed licensed facility, Westergard more than doubled the size of the kangaroo enclosure with new, sturdy materials.

This was sufficient for FWC, and the kangaroos were returned Monday afternoon.

Westergard, who is licensed to have tortoises, bats, lemurs and a variety of bird species on his property, and also owns capybara and deer, said he wanted to create a 4,500-square-foot space for his animals.

As the afternoon showers passed by overhead Monday, Rex, Westergard’s first kangaroo, inspected and sniffed a TV station’s camera. Blaze, the youngest, curled into a jean pouch. Nearby, a 20-pound bag of carrots waited for the kangaroos to snack on, an offering to help his kangaroos feel back to normal.

It was stressful for Westergard, his family and his friends. But he said it was 100 times more stressful for the animals.

FWC law enforcement spokesman Robert Klepper said the investigation into how Storm escaped is ongoing.

“We’re not done,” Westergard said. “The process isn’t done.”

Westergard said he has spent $1,000 a month for nearly a decade to take care of his animals.

“Which I don’t mind doing,” he said. “Doesn’t bother me a bit. I’ve been doing it. I’m not going to stop.”

To help with the new enclosure expenses, his family and friends set up a GoFundMe page called “Storm Sanctuary” that has raised nearly $2,000 in three days.

While the week was stressful, Westergard’s favorite part was seeing people who donated pictures of Storm, showing how his animals touched people’s lives.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” he promised.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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PHOTOS (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): FLA-KANGAROOS

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