Escaped Red Panda Found! "Obviously This Is Not Normal," Recalls Woman Who Tweeted Sighting That Led to Rescue

    Ashley Foughty, Red Panda Courtesy Ashley Foughty

    Ashley Foughty is quite the hero among the animal-lover community today! (Not to mention the vast community that just really likes adorable things.)

    The Washington, D.C.-based actress is the one who tweeted a photo of Rusty, the barely year-old red panda bear that had gone missing from the Smithsonian's National Zoo last night, that ultimately led to his rescue and safe return to his home today.

    Foughty exclusively told E! News that she spied the escaped animal while walking back to the house she shares with her husband, Patrick, in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood.

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    Ashley Foughty, Red Panda Courtesy Ashley Foughty

    They had no idea Rusty had gone missing because they were distracted by Patrick's imminent deployment overseas, Foughty recalled, but she had just visited the zoo a week ago and ultimately recognized the exotic animal when he popped out from behind a bush.

    "I actually really liked seeing the red pandas at the zoo and at first [when she first saw Rusty] I started asking, 'Is it a raccoon?' because we saw the striped tail," she told us. "But then we got a full view of him basically and I think, That is a red panda."

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    Foughty then tweeted, "Red panda in our neighborhood! 20th NW and Biltmore. Please come save him!" 

    "I tweeted the picture because obviously this is not normal and one of my friends commented and said the zoo was indeed missing one," she told E!, adding that they also called the zoo with an assist from her mother-in-law, who tracked down the number to call.

    Ashley Foughty, Red Panda Courtesy Ashley Foughty

    "It was just amazing that he made it all the way down here and happened to cross the street when we were walking by," Foughty marveled.

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    After spotting Rusty, she told us, they followed him to the porch of a nearby row house that was being renovated, where, luckily the bear stayed put.

    Zoo officials arrived about 20 minutes after Foughty posted her tweet, she said, and took Rusty back to the zoo. Alas, Ashley and her hubby couldn't stick around, as they had to jet for the airport for Patrick's deployment.

    "I am just glad he is back safe and sound," Ashley said, noting that her husband left for his tour of duty feeling a little stunned. "We were like, 'Well, this is interesting. Quite a surprising turn to the day!'"

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