- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Park Service planning her capture

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — Since May, Sidekick, as the brownish burro is known, has frolicked freely within a remote section of the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield. The 18-month-old has been spotted hoofing around the Bloody Angle area of the park.

Ranger Chuck Lochart has tried a variety of creative strategies to capture the Equus asinus, as she is scientifically known.

“I try to talk to her,” said Ranger Lochart, who has patrolled Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park for 17 years. But he has been able to get no closer than about 25 yards from the miniature donkey, who stands 3 to 4 feet high.

Sidekick’s owner, Glenna Tompkins, has tried to lure her pet out of the woods with carrots. So far, no luck.

“They can be pretty hard to catch,” she said.

Miss Tompkins, who now lives in Louisa County, is eager to get back her “baby,” and possibly a future “grandbaby.”

“We know she’s OK,” Miss Tompkins said. “Our concern is she could possibly be pregnant.”

If Sidekick is expecting, she is likely to give birth in February or March, Miss Tompkins said.

The burro, who gets her name from a pony Miss Tompkins’ family once owned, made her great escape in May by slipping through an opening in a fence used to pen horses. Once free, she made a beeline for the park.

She has been staying healthy by dining on a buffet of grass and water from nearby rivers and streams.

She even has been spotted absorbing history, listening in as tour groups learn about the 1884 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

But Sidekick’s freewheeling days may be coming to an end as soon as this weekend. That is when the Park Service hopes to capture her with a spring-loaded cage.

The burro’s foray into the forest is part of a larger Park Service problem, Ranger Lochart said.

In recent years, the battleground has become a dumping ground for unwanted pets and a sanctuary for animals squeezed from their natural habitats.

About a year ago, an emu showed up at the park. A nearby resident, whose land was sold for a subdivision, was packing up his flightless birds and one of them escaped, Ranger Lochart said.

“Last fall, we saw it standing in the middle of the road,” he recalled. “We tried to dart it, but it ran.”

The emu hasn’t been seen since.

Other spottings include an albino deer, a white pig, goats and a family of exotic chickens, as well as the usual assortment of puppies and kittens.

Someone “dropped off a dog with a chain around its neck that had a 25-pound bag of food attached to it,” Ranger Lochart said.

The good news is that it is illegal for anyone to hunt within the parkland’s boundaries. But critters don’t follow the same rules.

“One time a white rabbit was left,” Ranger Lochart said. “A white rabbit, not even a brown one. You know how long a white rabbit is going to last out there?”

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