First there were three. Then five. Now "the search is on" for at least six zebras on the loose in Maryland, where sightings of the striped fugitives have been taking place for more than a week. "I thought my mind was playing tricks on me," 10-year-old Layla Curling tells FOX 5 of her reaction when she spotted a few zebras behind her Upper Marlboro home on Sept. 2. "I thought maybe she'd been in the house too long," her dad, Paul Curling says, wondering if someone had dressed up or painted horses for a kids' party. Layla's mom, Alexis Curling, says to the New York Times: "Why would there be zebras?"
But zebras they were, and the Curlings weren't the only ones who'd seen the dazzle—a word used to describe a bunch of zebras—showing up in yards, fields, and along the roadsides in Prince George's County. Per the Washington Post, county animal services officials have received multiple calls reporting zebra sightings, with initial reports detailing three of the animals. That number has now reached at least six, with an NBC Washington helicopter filming that group in a field on Tuesday.
Rodney Taylor, head of the county's Animal Services Division, tells the Times the zebras have been traced to a private farm in Upper Marlboro—about 3 miles from the Curlings' home—owned by one Jerry Holly. The animals apparently escaped on Aug. 31. Taylor notes that Holly has a license from the USDA to keep zebras, though Taylor's not sure why Holly has them; they'd been brought from Florida a couple of weeks ago. USDA records show the farm has housed other animals not usually seen in that neck of the woods, including capybaras, red kangaroos, gibbons, and black-handed spider monkeys.
Taylor notes that Holly's farm is trying to trap the zebras by luring them to a feeding station, which could take as long as a week. In the meantime, he advises anyone who sees the zebras to not chase them or otherwise approach them, as they're easily spooked. He tells the Post that in his nearly four decades in animal control, the zebras are a bizarre first, noting, "This one ranks up there." (Read more zebras stories.)