One of the wayward zebras that have roamed Maryland’s backyards and roads since escaping from a farm in late August has been found dead in an illegal trap, authorities said.
A spokeswoman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police said in a statement Thursday that officers had responded to a Sept. 16 report of a dead animal on private property in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, about 20 miles southeast of Washington.
When officers arrived, they found a dead zebra trapped in a trap near a field, spokeswoman Lauren Moses said in a statement. According to Ms. Moses, the zebra was among those who had escaped from a farm in Upper Marlboro on Aug. 31.
Ms. Moses said it was illegal to set traps in Prince George’s County.
“At this point, the police have no information about who set the trap,” she said. “However, the Maryland Natural Resources Police will assist the Prince George’s County animal facility with this ongoing case.”
Ms Moses referred questions about the case, such as why officials had waited nearly a month to disclose the discovery of the dead zebra, to Prince George’s County Animal Services, which she said was handling the case.
Animal welfare chief Rodney Taylor did not immediately respond to calls late Thursday night.
Mr Taylor had initially said that five zebras had escaped from a private farm. But The Washington Post reported Thursday that Linda Lowe, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, said only three zebras had in fact come loose. Now only two are alive and on the run.
“Any further assessment and action taken by Prince George’s County, including any charges against the owner, will be evaluated once the zebras return to the herd,” Ms Lowe told The Post.
The zebras had built up a life on territory far from the grasslands of East Africa, delighting the inhabitants and surreptitiously evading attempts to round them up. Linda Pennoyer, the mayor of the town of Upper Marlboro, said the animals had become local “celebrities,” their movements documented on social media.
They were part of a fervor — as a bunch of zebras are sometimes called — of 39 zebras brought from Florida to a farm in Upper Marlboro in mid-August. Taylor had said he wasn’t sure why the farm owner, whom he identified as Jerry Holly, had kept zebras, but said they weren’t part of a zoo or other exhibit.
He said Mr Holly was licensed by the US Department of Agriculture to keep zebras. Department records show that in 2018 the farm had a variety of wildlife, including black-handed spider monkeys, dromedaries, mandrills, red kangaroos, brown lemurs, capybaras, and gibbons.
After the zebras got loose, the farm planned to capture them by luring them into a corral strewn with grain. The corral was to be rigged with a gate that would swing shut and trap the escapees.
But the zebras proved to be a cunning party, thwarting the effort week after week. Daniel I. Rubenstein, a professor of zoology at Princeton University, had said that if the zebras continued to dodge the catch, “they could do just fine” in Prince George’s County.
The province has many fields and pastures where zebras can graze, as well as streams and other places where they can drink water, which they need to do once a day, he said.
“They should be able to thrive pretty well,” said Dr. Rubenstein this month in an interview. “They will be able to make a living in that landscape naturally.”