A lone wild donkey separated from her herd by rising waters nearly two years ago may finally be getting rescued from the small island where she’s been trapped ever since.
Hillary, as she’s known to the human world, currently resides on an 1.3-acre island in the middle of Lake McClure in California’s Mariposa County.
“All indications are that she is a wild donkey and that she was part of a herd that has been reported in the area for over 40 years,” Bob Stafford of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told HuffPost in an email.
The herd’s stomping grounds included the lake bed that had gone dry due to drought. Around two years ago, heavy rains refilled the lake, save for one patch of high ground. While the rest of the herd moved to the mainland, Hillary was left behind on the newly formed island, likely due to an apparent injury to her front leg, according to the Merced Sun-Star.
Since then, Hillary’s island has been somewhat of a local tourist attraction, with animal lovers bringing her hay and treats like carrots and apples to supplement her diet, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. But alone on an island is no place for a highly social animal like a donkey. One major benefactor, former police detective Harry Markarian, told local media that he’s been attempting to work with local wildlife and environmental agencies for two years to get Hillary off the island but has run into numerous snags regarding who would be responsible for the mission and who would pay for it.
Markarian was previously planning to tranquilize Hillary with the help of a veterinarian and get her off the island by boat, but told CBS Sacramento that state officials said that as a private citizen, he wasn’t able to legally capture a wild donkey.
But Hillary’s rescue finally seems to be free of roadblocks, with the state’s fish and wildlife department planning an operation to start next week, the Chronicle reported Friday. The plan involves luring Hillary into a pen with food and getting her comfortable there before ultimately transporting the entire pen by boat to the mainland.
Hillary’s ultimate destination is the Northern California location of a Texas-based organization called Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue. Despite Hillary and her old herd having been spotted braying at one another across the water, Stafford told HuffPost that because of her leg injury, officials determined the best course of action was to bring her to a sanctuary, rather than attempt to reunite her with her old donkey kin.
“She has an old injury to her right leg and might not be accepted back into her old herd,” he said. “Also, it is unknown if the leg is causing her pain, which could be treated better in a sanctuary.”
Aside from the leg, Stafford said, Hillary is “in good shape.”