Hillary the donkey has finally gotten a lift off of her lonely island and is slated to eventually join a new herd.
After being stranded alone on a small patch of land in the middle of a California lake for around two years, the wild equine has been rescued and is settling in at a facility near Sacramento that is run by Texas-based nonprofit Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue.
“She has her own quarantine pen so we can have her examined by a vet and have tests run,” PVDR spokesperson Jessica Anselment told HuffPost in an email.
Hillary, who has some kind of front leg injury, “will eventually be moved in with our special needs residents,” Anselment said. The plan is for her to then stay with that herd permanently.
Hillary’s removal from the island was a success despite some unexpected hitches involving geese and a lack of cooperation on the donkey’s part, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.
The wild donkey got stuck on the 1.3-acre island about two years ago. Previously, she and her herd had spent time in the dried-out bed of Mariposa County’s Lake McLure, but heavy rains caused the lake to fill up again and turn the patch of high ground into an island. Hillary got left behind when her herd-mates went back to the mainland, apparently at least in part due to her injured leg. The rising water meant she was stuck there alone ― a sad fate for a social animal like a donkey.
Hillary became a bit of a local celebrity, with people bringing her hay and other food to help her survive. A local man named Harry Markarian began hatching a plan to take her off the island by boat, but was told by state officials that he couldn’t legally do so as a private citizen. His attempts to work with wildlife and environmental agencies hit numerous technical snags.
On Friday, however, plans to rescue Hillary finally came to fruition. The Department of Fish and Wildlife-organized operation was supposed to involve luring Hillary into a pen baited with watermelon, the Chronicle said. However, a wary Hillary went nowhere near the pen, and geese ate the watermelon. Officials ultimately had to tranquilize Hillary with darts in order to get her onto a boat so she could be transported to the PVDR satellite location.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Bob Stafford told HuffPost last week that the agency decided to send Hillary to the rescue group because of the worry that she would be rejected by her herd due to her injury. He also noted that going to a sanctuary would allow veterinarians to treat the injury, which he said may still be causing her pain.