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Killing of zebras near Hearst Castle stirs controversy

Along with hairpin curves and heart-stopping views of the Pacific, motorists on California Highway 1 near the town of San Simeon may catch a glimpse of a most exotic sight: a herd of five dozen zebras grazing in the pastures along the road.

They are what is left of what was at one time the world’s largest private zoo — a menagerie of camels, kangaroos, emus and giraffes that roamed the sprawling estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Most of the animals were sold off in the 1930s. But the zebras remained on the Hearst Ranch and multiplied. They have been known to wander.

Last week three zebras — a buck, a mare and a yearling — escaped from the 128-square mile ranch and wandered down California Highway 46.

On Wednesday two of them turned up in a pasture on David Fiscalini’s cattle ranch, where, he told the San Luis Obispo Tribune, they spooked his horses.

So he raised his shotgun and killed them.

The same day, another rancher shot the third zebra at a ranch nearby.

Many people in rural communities believe a rancher has a right to defend his livestock against intruders -- no matter how rare the  animals are. But Fiscalini’s actions the next day raised eyebrows.

On Thursday he called a local taxidermist and asked him to come out to the ranch. He said he needed someone to skin the zebra and tan the hide so he could make a rug.

“You can’t believe the controversy,” said Rosemary Anderson, whose husband is the taxidermist that handled the zebras.

“It breaks my heart to see it killed, because it’s wanton waste,” she said. “It’s very sad that it wasn’t handled in a different manner, but this rancher felt that was he taking care of his property and getting rid of a predator.”

Stephen Hearst, the great-grandson of William Randolph Hearst, said he was shocked to learn about the killings.

He said the zebras rarely venture outside the fence that surrounds the Hearst Ranch, “but from time to time they do, and neighbors give us a call and we retrieve them.”


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Comments () | Archives (77)

Shoot first, make rug later.

How are zebras "predators" to horses?

a zebra's not a predator.
i hope hearst sues this idiot.
then he can pay proper money for his zebra rug.

Zebras are not endangered. So, give the Rancher a break.

How is a zebra a predator? If it was a big cat or something I could see it being killed but a zebra?

Are you kidding me? A rancher SHOT and KILLED multiple zebras from a well-known local herd because they were "spooking his horses"??? What kind of horses were these that would be harmed by a little surprise visit from a striped cousin, and what kind of rancher shoots obviously exotic animals and asks questions later? Appalling behavior. All he had to do was call the people in charge of the zebras or animal control, so they could remove the animals. So stupid, wasteful, thoughtless and heartless!

"Getting rid of a predator"? No one who raises livestock for a living would be stupid enough to believe that a zebra could be a predator. They might have been afraid of the potential for disease transmission, a shotgun seems like a pretty extreme form of preventive medicine.

"this rancher felt that was he taking care of his property and getting rid of a predator.”...except that zebras are NOT predators.

umm ... zebras only eat grass. not really "getting rid of a predator."

So some zebras spooked his horses? And having spent 2 years in Africa with Zebras, Giraffes, Gazelle, Camels, Jackals, Lion, Hyena's and a host of other animals I am totally shocked to find that Zebras are predators and attack, kill, and eat horses. Maybe this man feared for his life...or not. Surely the man, having lived in the area for a number of years, knew where these animals came from and knew who they belonged to. His shooting these animals had only one purpose, his chance to bag some big African game and reap the trophies. This Old West mentality has been used by ranchers in the west to exterminate numerous species and needs to stop!

So the rancher sees an exotic animal on his property and his best reaction is to shoot it?
If his horses, cattle, sheep or dog wanders onto a neighbors farm, I suppose he expects the animal will be shot.
Good part of our country to stay away from....

Yeah why didn't they call the Hearst people instead of killing the animals. People suck and that is the truth!

Really? You shot a Zebra? This is a sad and paranoid society.

Zebras? Those equine-looking striped creatures? They are predators? What do they hunt? Grass? This is way over the top.

This rancher, David Fiscalini, is an absolute jerk. He shot the zebras when they "spooked" his horses??!! The guy needs his head examinaned.

A zebra is a predator? What?!!!

Welcome to America. Kill! Kill! Kill!

“It’s very sad that it wasn’t handled in a different manner, but this rancher felt that was he taking care of his property and getting rid of a predator.”

Um, hate to break it to this idiot rancher...but zebras are herbivores and most likely wanted nothing to do with your cattle or your horses.

This is terrible. I'd like to gives this ranchers a good ol' whatfor. Serious, who thinks it's a good idea to shoot a zebra?

Horrible, horrible human beings this lot is.

I'm sorry, are Zebras predatory animals? It isn't a little mystifying to these ranchers that Zebras are wandering their neighborhood, and maybe they should think first before shooting.

Do the Zebras attack horses or destroy other farm animals or property? It seems akin to shooting a neighbo's stray dog, or cat.

The dude wanted the hides. Zebra's as predators??? Give me a freakin' break.
Another Calif. Moron.

Guns are awesome. Let's just kill everything. We really live in a sick society.

What a douche bag.

I bet you those two ranchers did it on purpose. I've been there, I've seen the terrain and honestly, I'm suspicious that those two ranchers decided to kill those 3 Zebras instead of returning them like everyone else in the community usually would have done. This sounds like those ranchers are a little too busy snipping the barbed wires on the property lines just to feel like big time hunters. I hope the Hearst family and the park service that handles Hearst Castle protects themselves from those two poachers. It sounds like the two ranchers were planning this. I hope they go out of business and get sued by the park service for doing this. This is why I hate hunters: they go around doing these caged kills but this is ridiculous.

Having visited the Hearst Castle twice over the years from the East Coast , I am shocked how a local ranch owner that deals with animals on a daily basis could have shown such callousness and cruelty toward the escaped harmless zebras. Did he have a hidden agenda that we should be aware of?

All the years the zebra have been there, you would think there would be a contingency plan to deal with bringing them back when they stray off the Hearst Ranch. The ranchers knee jerk reaction to shoot because the zebra "spooked" his horses or cattle is of concern, A person could spook the ranchers animals too, would the ranchers have shot the person if they had trespassed? Perhaps some bad feeling between ranchers and Hearst Ranch exist and is at the base of this, I picture someone saying "the next time your zebra come over here, you know what will happen" regardless of my projection on this that may come off as a Monday morning quarter back, There needs to be a plan in place to deal with such a thing so there is no over reaction to shoot first. The relayed and alleged immediate statement from Fiscallini that the now deceased zebra are being now made into rugs makes one wonder if there was another motive here, Is it a true statement. This can be argued forever and there will be very strong feelings both ways. What preventative steps will happen now to prevent this from happening again.

Another crazy gun nut. Must be a friend of Sarah Palin

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