A McCormick County deputy snapped this photo of a kangaroo hopping along Highway 28 South near the Clarks Hill area on Tuesday morning.

Without an animal control officer of its own, McCormick County deputies are left with the task of rounding up strays.

But none of those officers were prepared for the sight that met them Tuesday morning — as a kangaroo was found hopping along Highway 28 South.

“We’re hoping Outback Steakhouse might build a restaurant out here, now that they know we have a kangaroo,” Sheriff Clarke Stearns said.

Details on how the wayward ‘roo slipped from the confines of its pen at Melrose Farm in Clarks Hill were unknown, but Stearns and farm owner Raford Bussey said the animal was returned home safe.

It’s not illegal under South Carolina law to possess a kangaroo with proper permits and licensing, and Stearns said the farm was in compliance with current statutes.

News of the brief breakout had McCormick County social media pages hopping. A Facebook post by McCormick County Emergency Services was shared nearly 500 times as of noon on Tuesday.

Stearns, who’s been in law enforcement for more than 30 years, said the early morning call to dispatch was a first for him.

“We thought it was a prank call, actually, but we answer everything and sure enough, there was a kangaroo off to the side of the road,” he said. “Where the animal was seen is very, very close to where it belongs, so it’s not like he was hopping at large around McCormick County.”

Stearns said he wasn’t aware such an animal even lived in the county until Tuesday’s spotting.

For his part, Bussey declined to share information about the kangaroo’s origins with an Index-Journal reporter, but said people shouldn’t be surprised about such a rare encounter in the rural county.

“There’s probably a lot of things in McCormick County that people don’t know about,” Bussey said.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.