MARIPOSA COUNTY (CBS13) — Hilary the stranded wild donkey has officially been rescued from a small island at Lake McClure.
This, after being stuck on the island for more than two years.
On Friday, a team from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully tranquilized Hilary after repeated attempts to corral her inside a large pen it set up on the island about a week ago.
The team then loaded her onto a tarp and carried her to a barge for transport across the reservoir. Once she got to the boat launch, she was put onto a trailer and is on her way to a sanctuary in Ione to live out the rest of her life.
Hillary was discovered by a retired Merced police detective and current private investigator Harry Markarian back in 2017.
He and other boaters at Lake McClure believe Hillary got to the island when water levels dropped so low during the drought that she was able to walk across. The reservoir then filled with water during the winter and Hillary got stuck on what became an island. The island grew smaller and smaller as snowmelt continued to fill the lake.
She was able to survive this long thanks to boaters who routinely dropped off food such as hay, feed pellets, salt licks and apples.
This while several agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Merced Irrigation District and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife struggled to determine who had jurisdiction and responsibility for the wild animal.
About two months ago, Markarian told CBS13 that Hillary the donkey was still stuck on the island some two and a half years later. At the time, he had linked up with a horse rescue and the two came up with a plan to rescue Hillary from the island.
Three weeks ago, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife called off that plan because of a vaguely written state law. They said under California Fish and Game Code, it’s illegal to capture a wild donkey unless the landowner makes the request. Even then, only an officer or employer of a local animal control agency can do so.
They devised their own plan to rescue Hilary Friday morning. Only it didn’t go exactly according to plan. The idea was to coax her into the pen, get her on a barge, take her over to the boat launch and move her by trailer to the sanctuary without tranquilizing her.
CDFW tried to get Hillary into the corral this morning, but after several failed attempts ultimately decided to dart her. The first tranquilizer didn’t work, but the second one about 45 minutes later did.
Hillary is now on her way to Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue’s location in Ione. This is the best contact for the Texas-based organization: https://donkeyrescue.org/