Last of Escaped Zebras Captured With White Bread, Oats and ‘Positivity’


The last of four zebras that escaped from a trailer in North Bend, Wash., was safely corralled on Friday with the help of a former rodeo bullfighter, a lookout on a mountain bike and a package of white bread.

The zebra, named Sugar, had been wandering the grounds of a 300-acre property in an unincorporated area of King County since it had broken free from a trailer on a highway exit off Interstate 90, about 30 miles east of Seattle, on April 28.

The mare had been spotted on lawns throughout the week, but officials, residents and wranglers had been unable to capture Sugar, who is also known as Shug.

That’s when her owner, Kristine Keltgen, called in reinforcements.

“It’s very frustrating because I’m here in Montana trying to organize this search,” Ms. Keltgen, who runs a petting zoo in Anaconda, Mont., said in an interview on Saturday.

Among those who helped in the initial capture of three zebras was David Danton, 52, a former rodeo clown and bullfighter, who had been driving nearby with his wife and decided to assist in the rescue.

Ms. Keltgen recalled his efforts to build makeshift gates out of rope and panels, and she asked if he would return to the North Bend area from his home in Mount Vernon, Wash.

This wasn’t Mr. Danton’s first time in the saddle.

He has wrangled buffalo, untamed Arabian racehorses, cattle and high-priced goats. He raised rodeo stock for 30 years, and his wife, Julie Danton, works as a horse trainer.

He began to formulate a plan and organized a team of four people whom he could trust to remain calm and even-tempered around the potentially skittish animal.

“We’ve had loose animals, and it’s just a panic,” Mr. Danton said. “It’s such a stressful, anxiety, scary time.”

“We happen to have a strange skill set to help in this scenario, so we went and did that and it turned out perfectly,” he added.

There are two ways to capture a zebra, Mr. Danton said.

One is to tranquilize the animal, which he opposed without knowing how Sugar would react to the drug. That left the second option, which involved building increasingly smaller pens around the animal until there would be just enough space to direct her into a trailer.

But how to find the animal on such a sprawling property, where 300 treed acres gave Sugar plenty of room to roam and hide?

Mr. Danton put out feelers in North Bend, and found that Sugar wasn’t as elusive as it might have seemed.

He was connected with a mountain biker who had seen Sugar on several of his rides through the terrain. The biker reported when and where he saw the zebra, and Mr. Danton began to plot and track her movements and patterns.

The team arrived on Friday to set up a pen to keep the property owner’s horse away and prevent any unpredictable encounters with Sugar. But as they walked the grounds and discussed their plan to find Sugar, they couldn’t believe what they stumbled on.

“We had a meeting with our team and we said, ‘OK, we all know what we’re doing,’” Mr. Danton said. “And somebody says, ‘I see her.’”

He found a roughly three-acre pasture with fences around it, and knew it would be the perfect place to start corralling Sugar into smaller pens.

Ms. Keltgen had said that the zebra’s favorite treat was white bread, so Mr. Danton got half a loaf of Grandma Sycamore’s Home Maid from the property owner and began crinkling the wrapper. Sugar’s ears perked up, and she began to follow Mr. Danton into the enclosure.

After placing hay and oats in the middle of the pasture to distract and calm Sugar, the team built a corral out of steel panels and rope that they could pull in to shrink the size of the fence.

Mr. Danton and his team eventually created a small-enough pen to readily lead Sugar through a 24-foot-long alleyway that he had erected and made to end at a trailer.

“They did a kind of dragnet, smaller and smaller to guide her into the trailer, and she was hauled off right after 10 o’clock,” said Cameron Satterfield, a spokesman for the Regional Animal Services of King County. “This could not have ended any better than it did.”

And with that, the zebra was on her way home. Mr. Danton and his wife drove Sugar in a trailer to Montana on Saturday.

“Life is about the power of positivity,” Mr. Danton said. “If you think you can do something, the likelihood of you doing it goes way up.”

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