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Three-Hour Frolic Ends Badly for LA Zoo’s Runaway Bighorn Sheep

Big Horn SheepUnfortunately, it’s fairly common to see news stories involving fatal injuries stemming from car accidents, usually claiming the lives of bicyclists or pedestrians, where the driver responsible for the crash tried to flee the scene. As many as 11% of all car crashes are compounded by hit-and-run offenses, in fact.

It’s also fairly common to see stories of zoo animals that manage to escape from their enclosures and suffer injuries because no one outside of a zoo in the U.S. expects to see African safari animals.

Rarely do the two stories intersect — but that’s exactly where this story is going.

This past Saturday, November 22, the Los Angeles Zoo at Griffith Park dealt with the loss of what the NY Post calls a “fugitive bighorn sheep.” The sheep reportedly escaped from the zoo around 1:20 PM, probably by jumping over a fence, zoo spokeswoman April Spurlock explains, and it spent about three hours “running free in the hills [and] enjoying its freedom in the great wide-open” while zoo staff frantically searched the area.

Unfortunately, the sheep then wandered onto a residential street about two miles from the zoo and was hit by a car. The driver, likely more than a little surprised to see a bighorn sheep on the loose in LA, did not stop after hitting the animal. Nevertheless, bystanders have confirmed that there was indeed a “car-on-sheep collision.”

The animal didn’t die immediately, officials state, but after veterinarians responded to the crash and tranquilized the sheep, it appeared that the crash injuries were too much for the sheep to overcome.

Zoo officials are still investigating how exactly the sheep escaped from its enclosure, and an official necropsy has been ordered to determine that the car crash was definitely the cause of death.

It appears that there were some direct person-and-sheep encounters before the animal managed to escape the zoo entirely, but perhaps the silver lining in this situation is that no human injuries resulted from that.

Still, it will be interesting to see if the LA Zoo will decide to pursue legal action against the driver responsible for the sheep’s death — it’s unlikely that the driver would be charged for the crash itself, but the zoo certainly could argue that the driver broke the law by fleeing the scene.

Furthermore, it’s unknown if the zoo will try to replace the sheep, or if the remaining four bighorn sheep will be left to entertain visitors while mourning the loss of their fifth comrade.




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