July 19, 2024

Four zebras escaped from a trailer on a highway exit in Washington State on Sunday, leading dozens of residents, police officers and volunteers to join in an effort to corral them.

Among them was a person with particular expertise in wrangling loose animals: David Danton, of Mount Vernon, Wash., who worked for nearly 15 years as a rodeo clown and rodeo bullfighter.

He and his wife, Julie Danton, had been driving home from a cattle drive in eastern Washington when they stopped to help the police and neighbors capture the zebras in North Bend, Wash., about 30 miles east of Seattle.

“It was kind of divine intervention — we happened to be in the exact spot and had the knowledge,” Ms. Danton said.

Mr. Danton said he built some makeshift gates out of rope, metal panels and a garden hose, and got two of the zebras to run into a pen on a horse farm. Then, he said, he helped build an “alleyway” out of metal panels to usher the zebras safely into a large trailer.

“It worked out as well as it possibly could have,” Mr. Danton said. “It’s just about being quiet, working them gentle and not getting excited.”

Still, he said, “Nobody trains you for wrangling zebras.”

Kristine Keltgen said she had bought the zebras from a farm in Washington State and was hauling them on Interstate 90 on Sunday to the petting zoo she runs in Anaconda, Mont., when she saw that the latch on the zebras’ trailer was loose.

Ms. Keltgen said that when she stopped on a highway exit in North Bend to fix the latch, the zebras “bolted out.”

“It happened really fast,” she said in an interview on Monday.

As the animals began scampering through traffic and onto residential streets, dozens of police officers and neighbors, along with the Dantons, rushed to the scene.

“Animal control showed up to help, police showed up, and every neighbor showed up to help — or just look at the zebras — because it’s not every day you get zebras in your neighborhood,” said Megan Dammann, a North Bend resident who runs a kennel-free dog boarding and doggy day-care business.

She said she raced to the area after seeing a post about the zebras on a community Facebook page. While the Dantons helped corral two of the zebras on a horse farm, residents nearby helped shoo a third zebra into a fenced-in yard and then shut the gate, Ms. Dammann said.

“It was kind of a fabulous group effort, which is what you do here,” Ms. Dammann said, whether the lost animal in question is a dog, a cat or a zebra. “In North Bend, that’s what you do.”

Whitney Blomquist ran to her front porch after seeing the zebras on her security camera. Three were outside her home, she said, wandering near an R.V.

“They looked right at me and walked right toward me,” Ms. Blomquist said. “You’d think you’d have to go to an African safari to be with zebras and here I am standing on my front porch, and they’re 10 feet away from me. It was just insane.”

Ms. Keltgen said she was incredibly grateful that so many strangers helped her capture three of the zebras, and she was hoping the fourth would still be found. It was still on the loose on Monday, she said.

“I met some of the best people you could possibly meet,” Ms. Keltgen said. “It was a negative experience that turned out to be very positive. We just have to get our last zebra back and we will be all better.”

Ms. Blomquist said she was keeping her eyes open.

“I keep looking at my cameras every time they go off,” she said. “We’re just aware it’s out there.”

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