- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A bighorn sheep escaped from the Los Angeles Zoo on Saturday and died after being struck by a driver who fled the scene, authorities said.

The adult female sheep escaped an exhibit just before noon and traversed the Santa Monica Mountains from the area in Griffith Park where the zoo is located, zoo spokeswoman April Spurlock said.

Witnesses reported seeing the ewe being hit by a car near the Greek Theatre in the Los Feliz section of the city, near the entrance to the park, police said.

Zookeepers, park rangers and a police helicopter joined the search after the animal was reported missing. When zoo personnel and veterinarians got to the sheep, they tranquilized the animal to bring it back to its habitat but it died at the scene, Spurlock said.

“It’s suspected that it died after being hit, but we won’t know the cause of death until a necropsy is performed,” she said.

She said an investigation was underway to determine how the sheep escaped.

“We looked at the habitat, and we’re not sure how it got out,” Spurlock said.

The ewe was one of five bighorn sheep in the zoo exhibit.

The desert bighorn sheep has been listed as endangered since 1998 due to loss of habitat, disease brought by domestic sheep and cattle and predation.

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