Alexis Curling was working from dwelling final week when her 10-year-old daughter, Layla, ran upstairs and interrupted her with breaking information.
“Mommy, I know you’re not going to believe this, but trust me when I tell you: I just saw some zebras behind the house,” she mentioned, in keeping with her father, Paul Curling.
The household is used to seeing deer nosing alongside the wooded railroad tracks behind their dwelling in suburban Maryland. However zebras?
“Layla, what’s the matter with you? Are you crazy?” Ms. Curling responded. “Why would there be zebras?”
However there have been zebras — 5, in truth, that had just lately escaped from a close-by farm and had been roaming freely by way of the backyards and roads of Prince George’s County, simply as they’d in the grasslands of japanese Africa.
“When I first heard about it I was like, ‘OK, you’ve got to be kidding me, right? Zebras?’” mentioned Rodney Taylor, chief of the Prince George’s County Animal Companies Division. Over 39 years in animal management, he has needed to corral the occasional cow or different farm animal. However by no means a zebra.
“Most times, we’re dealing with a dog and cat more than anything else,” he mentioned.
The wandering zebras first got here to the consideration of the authorities on Aug. 31 after they escaped from a privately owned farm in Higher Marlboro, Md., about 20 miles southeast of Washington, Mr. Taylor mentioned.
He mentioned that he didn’t understand how the zebras obtained unfastened, however that they had been a part of a zeal of 39 (sure, that’s what a bunch of zebras are typically known as) that had been delivered to the farm from Florida about two weeks in the past.
He mentioned he was undecided why the farm proprietor, whom he recognized as Jerry Holly, had been holding zebras in Maryland, however they weren’t a part of a zoo or different exposition.
“He just has them,” Mr. Taylor mentioned, including that he had spoken solely to a employee on the farm, and to not Mr. Holly. “He may sell them. I have no idea.”
He mentioned that Mr. Holly had a license from the United States Division of Agriculture to maintain zebras. The usD.A. didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Division data point out that the farm has had a variety of untamed animals as just lately as 2018, together with black-handed spider monkeys, dromedaries, mandrills, pink kangaroos, brown lemurs, capybaras and gibbons.
However Mr. Curling, who lives about three miles away, mentioned, “Nobody knew about it.”
Mr. Holly couldn’t be reached at a number of numbers listed below his title. The escaped zebras had been beforehand reported by WJLA.
After breaking unfastened, the zebras started grazing alongside the byways of Higher Marlboro, ultimately crossing behind the Curlings’ yard final Thursday, the place Layla noticed them by way of the kitchen window as she mounted herself a noontime snack of Oreo cookies, her father mentioned.
Her sister, Alexa Curling, 22, rapidly took a video after which known as Mr. Curling to inform him that there have been zebras behind the home.
“I’m like, ‘OK, my family has finally lost it,’” he mentioned. “Maybe they are playing a prank on me and want me to come home early.”
Even after seeing the video, he puzzled if somebody had dressed up horses to appear like zebras for a kid’s birthday celebration, a lot the means somebody would possibly put a horn on a horse to make it appear like a unicorn.
His spouse known as 311 to report the household’s discovery.
“Ma’am, I know you’re not going to believe me, but there’s some zebras in my backyard,” Mr. Curling recalled her saying. The decision taker “gave a long pause,” he mentioned, after which referred her to the Animal Companies Division.
As phrase of the zebras’ travels unfold, Consultant Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s Home delegate, joked in a press release that she “denies responsibility” for letting unfastened the animals.
“Local news has reported that the zebras were let loose on Saturday or Sunday of last weekend, a period of time during which I was enjoying quiet time at home with family,” Ms. Norton mentioned in the assertion on Friday. “My alibi is solid, but given my career of fighting for statehood for the District, which includes years of explaining the importance of having consent of the governed, and given my recent opposition to fences, I can understand why the charge was made.”
Mr. Taylor mentioned that Mr. Holly’s farm deliberate to lure the zebras in a feeding station, the place they’ve been captured on video digicam over the previous 4 nights, nibbling on grain.
Farm employees have been slowly including paneling round the station, creating an enclosure that can ultimately embrace a gate with a tripwire, he mentioned.
The method has been gradual as a result of the zebras could be scared to enter the feeding station in the event that they discover the form of the enclosure has modified, Mr. Taylor mentioned. As soon as the zebras are trapped, they are going to be tranquilized and returned to the farm.
“I’m thinking by this time next week,” he mentioned, “they should have some zebras caught.”
He emphasised that the authorities weren’t attempting to seek out the zebras, which have eager senses and are simply startled.
“It would just make matters worse,” he mentioned. “They’re not going to let you get that close to them.”
Susan Beachy contributed analysis.