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Fugitive zebras shot by ranchers

Three zebras that escaped from the Hearst Ranch in California have been shot dead by neighbouring ranchers who claim the exotic animals were threatening their horses and cattle.

The animals are descendants of zebras brought to the San Simeon estate of William Randolph Hearst in 1923 as part of the publisher's private zoo.

About 80 zebras currently wander the property around Hearst Castle, and three escaped last week.

Green Valley Cattle owner David Fiscalini said he shot two of the zebras because they were chasing seven horses on his property about 10 miles from the Hearst Ranch.

The third zebra was shot by another neighbour after it got into a herd of cows.

After shooting the animals, Mr Fiscalini took them to a taxidermist to have their hides tanned, he told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. He did not want to waste the hides, he said.

William Randolph Hearst's great-grandson, Steve Hearst, said the ranchers should have called the Hearst Ranch to report the runaway zebras. "Neighbours are usually there to help their neighbours, not shoot their zebras," Mr Hearst said. "It's a shame they took that action."

But Mr Fiscalini said there was not time to call. It is branding time on his ranch, and replacing a horse that might have been injured in a clash with the zebras would have cost him tens of thousands of dollars, he explained.

"These zebras have no respect for fences. They tear fences down and go right through them," Mr Fiscalini said.

Mr Hearst said: "They have some respect for a fence. But if they want to move, they'll hop the fence."

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