Rusty was captured in a bush in the Adams Morgan neighborhood Monday afternoon. National Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said animal keepers discovered Rusty was missing from his enclosure Monday morning and began searching the zoo.
Baker-Masson said red pandas are highly territorial, leading them to believe Rusty was likely hiding somewhere on the zoo grounds.
But Rusty apparently just wanted to explore his new city. He was taken to the zoo's animal hospital for a checkup.
Rusty arrived at the zoo in April from the zoo in Lincoln, Neb., and was in quarantine for several weeks until he went on exhibit in early June.
Unlike giant pandas, red pandas are not members of the bear family. Red pandas are slightly bigger than a domestic cat and look similar to a raccoon. They are listed as vulnerable in the wild.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.