The Strip District: On the Trail of Elusive Zebras in Suburban Maryland | Maryland
Many interesting things have happened in Upper Marlborough in recent years.
In 2014, Frederick Douglass School football team scored perfect season. In 2019, to celebrate National Pancake Day, a local museum hosted a lecture About “The History of the Pie”. This May, the city Buy an electric car.
But these achievements have been overshadowed in recent weeks, and instead, it was the whereabouts of five zebras, which separated from a local farm at the end of August, that dominated the conversation.
Locals have shared photos and videos of zebras roaming the meadows and gardens south of Upper Marlborough. However, zebras have proven difficult to catch despite all these fortuitous sightings, in part due to their ability to run so fast – a trick that usually helps them survive in the African savannah rather than the American suburbs.
The story of the striped horse’s separation seems to have provided a tonic in these trying times, and was surely all anyone wanted to talk about in Prince George’s County Courthouse, downtown, one morning last week.
Jason Greenwald, who was waiting for a real estate auction to start, had found out about the fugitive Twitter zebras.
“This is the first time,” Greenwald said when asked if he had heard of zebras roaming the Upper Marlborough area before.
Greenwald, 34, said he had previously encountered a zebra.
“In Florida I went to this wonderful zoo,” he said. Greenwald admitted, however, that he was not an expert. He said, “I was eight.” “I don’t have a lot of zebra experiences in the real world.”
Daniel Rubinstein, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, is largely considered an expert. He has studied the behavior and ecology of all wild horses, is among the first academics for zebra, and has recently researched how the animals’ stripes help regulate body temperature.
While observers may believe Maryland Rubinstein would prove to be a challenge to a strong five zebra, Rubinstein said just the opposite.
“They are fine,” he said.
“Horses, three types of zebra, two types of ass, they are basically all grazing animals. They surf a little, but 90% of their diet is grass. And in rural Maryland there is a lot of grass.”
Even in winter, when the average low in Upper Marlborough is around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), Rubinstein said zebras would be fine. In the wild, zebras thrive on the frozen slopes of Mount Kenya, while animals can also choose to migrate south. In any case, Rubinstein said, people should not approach them.
“They’re wild animals. People aren’t their friends,” he said. He played a video of two wild ass fighting. They were biting each other’s necks, and Rubinstein said zebras, like other equids, could deliver a fierce kick to anyone who might harass them.
The Guardian was in Upper Marlboro trying to track zebras, and John Henry Gray, who was buying at the liquor store, which also sells lottery tickets and sundries, shared some ideas.
“They took the railroad tracks,” Gray said, referring to a north-south train route through Upper Marlborough.
Gray, a lover of the outdoors and who describes himself as a “nerd when it comes to animals,” added: “Follow the railroads and you’ll find them. Because it’s away from the crowds and because their natural instinct is to follow the path.”
Gray said he hadn’t seen zebras himself, but as a regular hiker in the area around the top of Marlborough, he’s seen otters, seaweeds, and “everything else you can catch.”
Gray recommended trying Jug Bay, a preserve in wetlands near Upper Marlboro. He suggested that the animals had deviated from the railway track in search of water.
“If I was a zebra, this is where I would be,” Gray said.
Match this with a suggestion from Rubinstein. The professor said the zebra is “water-dependent” and needs to be drunk once a day. In his own research, he tracked zebras by noting water holes and tracking hooves trails.
It is unclear what kind of zebras the fugitives belonged to, but it is likely that they were zebras on the plains or Equus Quagga The most common types. They tend to form tight membership groups, Rubenstein said, and may travel in large numbers.
The Guardian set off for Jug Bay, in Patuxent River Park, late in the morning, just as a light rain had begun.
On the highway, the freshwater sanctuary is 3.5 miles from where the zebras escape, but a much shorter distance for animals with a track record of trespassing on private property. The numerous stops along the way to hunt zebras were unsuccessful.
In Jug Bay, Selby’s Landing, a popular access point to the water, proved to be a scenic place, but it also revealed the scale of the task—the wetlands stretched across hundreds of acres, with no zebra in immediate view. A brief, lukewarm, search for animal dung yielded no results.
Tracking zebras in a mid-size sedan, armed only with an iPhone and an umbrella, was futile.
A trip to the Bielefelds farm, where the zebra was kept after it was bought by a local man — legally, Prince George’s Animal Services Department said — was also unproductive. There was no sign of any zebra and no sign of the owner, who was described by the local press as a “strange animal dealer”.
However, it turns out that the search was very close. During a somber lunch at Baby Boys Tavern, in Upper Marlboro, a woman said zebras had just been seen in the suburbs of Upper Marlboro. Unfortunately, she couldn’t determine the location from the local news report, but it was time to get out again.
At the Main Street Café, Naomi Rutherford gave the lead. She knew a man who had seen zebras the day before, and said she would facilitate the meeting.
Like others, Rutherford had little experience tracking zebras in the field, despite seeing him at the zoo several years earlier.
“I would probably act crazy if I saw one,” said Rutherford.
“I would probably run all over the place trying to get pictures and videos of her. I would honestly try to flirt with one, even though we’re not supposed to.”
Rutherford’s contact requested that he be identified as Mr. Smith only, due to what he said was a growing hostility among the local population at zebra sightings. Smith said he’s seen zebras on five occasions over the past four weeks. He said his wife was the first to see them before they were reported missing. He always saw them in the same place, and showed pictures and videos of three zebras eating grass.
He confirmed that he had seen zebras at 5:30 p.m. the day before, but did not bother to take video footage this time.
“At this point I actually saw them and was trying to get home to cut the lawn,” Smith said.
“I didn’t have time to mess with zebras.”
Smith recommended a specific location on Croom Road, a winding country trail that winds through woodland on its way south from Upper Marlboro. The Guardian has been asked to keep the site secret, as various amateur zebra hunts have begun to anger residents of the sprawling homes and estates that dot the road.
Smith’s location looked like a zebra’s paradise. Woodland provided shade from the sun, while the sprawling green lawns, many with “no trespassing” signs, looked like they would provide good food.
Certainly, if zebras were spotted, this would be the place to be. But the enthusiastic walk up and down the road brought no sightings, and an attempt to recreate zebra sound – Like a dog’s bark but with a little mixed whistling – it brought no zebra in.
Part of the problem with catching zebras is the lack of incentive to find them.
“We domesticated horses. “They depend on us for their well-being,” Rubinstein said. “But zebras, we haven’t domesticated them. It really is a wild animal.
“So you can feed him, and he will be happy about it. But if she gets away, she still has the power to stay on her own. Just as horses can – but horses know life is easier if they come and communicate with people.”
Before leaving Upper Marlboro, there was time for one last attempt to find the zebras. They were most commonly spotted at night, Smith said, but an expedition after dusk yielded similar results earlier in the day, only in the dark.
In the same way that the animals escaped captivity, the zebras outperformed the Guardian. But it is hard to envy zebras for their isolation.
For now, they continue to roam suburban Maryland, seemingly enjoying both the plentiful lawn and their hard-earned freedom. The Atlantic Coast may not be their natural habitat, but they seem to be bringing it back home.