A Florida man will be answering some awkward questions from officials with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after he shot and killed an escaped zebra that he had allegedly been illegally keeping on his property.
As Jacksonville’s WTLV-TV reports, the zebra, whose name is believed to have been “Shadow,” escaped from a farm known as the Cottonwood Ranch, in the town of Callahan, northeast of Jacksonville, on Wednesday. Neighbor Jenee Watkins watched it happen.
“I was walking my dogs over there and all of a sudden we see a zebra trotting down this road, and it gets to this corner and stops and feeds. And then cop cars come zooming so the zebra runs into this yard and then all the way into that back field. That’s when a car comes zooming, cops are zooming, I’m standing there, the owner shot it and the zebra fell.”
Watkins expressed dismay that the animal wasn’t just lassoed and brought home safely, but the unidentified owner of the animal says he got injured during his escape and had to be put down.
As it turns out, the owner of the zebra may wind up having larger problems than just his zebra having been killed. Conservation officials say that he did not have the proper license to keep the exotic animal.
BREAKING: Zebra shot & killed in a Callahan backyard after reportedly escaping. This is a picture a neighbor took of the zebra before it was shot. We’re told it was hurt from its escape and had to be “put down”. FWC and Sheriff’s office investigating. @FCN2go pic.twitter.com/6Ripd67YSA
— Shelby Danielsen (@NewsShelby) March 27, 2019
Neighbors said that Shadow was the only exotic animal that they were aware of that was kept on the unidentified man’s farm. After looking around, officials confirmed that there were, indeed, no other unlicensed or illegal exotic animals being kept there.
As of this writing, the man has not been charged with any crimes, although criminal charges may be forthcoming.
The zebra was a Grant’s Zebra, which is an abundant species that is not considered endangered.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, zebras are considered “game animals” and must be held in enclosures that meet certain standards. It remains unclear if the farm where Shadow was kept meets those standards.
Illegally-imported wildlife has become the bane of conservation officials in the Sunshine State, with the introduction of invasive species threatening native wildlife as well as causing headaches for law enforcement. As The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports, over 500 different invasive species of plants and animals are known to be in the state, and some, such as monkeys, carry diseases that are a threat to humans. Often owners will abandon the animals after finding they can’t properly care for them; other times the animals will escape their enclosures and roam around, sometimes finding a partner to breed with and aggravating the problem.