KIRO exclusive: Owner of recovered zebra describes escape, getting kangaroos

May 7, 2024, 3:51 PM


Shug the zebra in North Bend (Photo courtesy of Cameron Satterfield, King County Regional Animal Services)

(Photo courtesy of Cameron Satterfield, King County Regional Animal Services)

The remaining zebra that was loose after escaping a trailer was finally captured last Friday after nearly a week of sauntering around in both the wildlife and paved roads of the North Bend region.

Shug was one of four zebras being taken from Winlock, in Lewis County, back to their home at an unofficial petting zoo in Anaconda, Montana, operated by Kristine Keltgen.

“I kind of felt helpless,” Keltgen said on KIRO Newsradio’s “The Gee and Ursula Show” Tuesday regarding the week-long search. “I’m in Montana, my life is still here. I have animals to take care of. I have my kiddo and stuff going on, so it would have been really hard for me to just pick up and spend weeks looking for a zebra. So I felt more or less helpless, like I had my hands tied.”

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Keltgen just recently bought the zebras for her petting zoo, claiming the process started merely with a Google search. A few months later, the zebras were hers — all she had to do was pick them up in a trailer.

“Everything was set to go as planned, but I had a mat that was coming out the back of the trailer. When I went to adjust that mat, it loosened the latch,” Keltgen said. “So as I’m driving down the road, I’m getting some funny looks and I look back and the latch is loose. I immediately stopped to secure the situation and that’s when I think they saw their opportunity.

“It all happened so fast. It was just one right after the other,” Keltgen continued, describing the zebras’ dramatic escape. “My first thought was to keep them off the interstates. I mean, if anything, just get them away from the interstate. I don’t think I’ve ever ran so fast to get them out of traffic.”

Zebra owner: ‘I had plans of starting a petting zoo’

Keltgen has been acquiring mostly domestic animals for her seven-acre enclosure. After buying a house with some land a year ago, miniature cows, horses, sheep, goats and ponies are found throughout, serving the approximate 9,500 population of Anaconda.

“I had plans of starting a petting zoo. I’m still kind of on the fence with that at the moment,” Keltgen said. “I’ve just been having friends and family come over, people in the community. They’ll just be like, ‘Hey Kristine, I bringing my kid over kid over to see the animals’ and I’ll just have people over. It hasn’t been an official petting zoo.”

Keltgen told “Gee and Ursula” that a license or a permit is not required in the state of Montana to own a zebra, as they are considered equine. Just standard paperwork, similar to what owning a horse would require.

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“They’re just like horses. I own quite a few horses. They’re my babies. I love all of them,” Keltgen said. “They are just pets. I would love to train them. Get them halter broke. I mean, people ride zebras. Not if I was interested in, I don’t know, I’m looking at kangaroos now …”

“Kangaroos?” Gee and Ursula both ask her. “Are you building Noah’s Ark?”

“Well, you do have to have a permit for animals like that and I do not at the moment, so that’s my holdup. I would have to apply for a permit for animals considered exotic,” Keltgen explained. “But zebras are just considered equine and you just treat them like horses. They do have a different temperament. You have to start them young, in terms of training them to like people. If that is done properly, they are wonderful. They are sweet. They greet you at the fence.”

Zebras express happiness upon reuniting

According to Keltgen, the zebras expressed an immense amount of joy when reunited with Shug, making “zebra noises” and staying close together.

“I think (Shug) missed being around people and being in that secure environment,” Keltgen said. “She was scared so she took off, but I think she missed being here with the others.”

“Is it good for a zebra to be in a small, enclosed area?” Ursula asked. “I mean, that’s not their usual habitat.”

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“To take a wild zebra in and pen him up, that probably would not be a good thing,” Keltgen answered. “But these zebras are domesticated. They were born in the U.S. They feel most comfortable (here) and these guys are doing great.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m.- noon on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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KIRO exclusive: Owner of recovered zebra describes escape, getting kangaroos