Officials are combing the Reche Canyon area of the Inland Empire in search of a wild burro that has survived being shot in the head with an arrow.
Authorities launched a rescue mission Wednesday after learning the donkey was shot sometime over the weekend or possibly before, according to John Welsh with the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.
Welsh said authorities would have responded sooner, but the incident was not reported. It's still unclear who's behind the senseless attack, he added.
“It’s just one of these things that somebody that is definitely evil causing harm on an innocent animal, probably doing it late at night when nobody’s around,” Welsh said.
The animal cruelty incident came to light after DonkeyLand, a nonprofit that seeks to protect wild burros in the area, posted about it on Facebook over the weekend.
“I have no words to even describe why someone would do this to any animal, let alone a wild animal who’s out here just trying to survive,” Amber Koko, the organization's founder, told KTLA.
The nonprofit has put up a $1,000 reward for information on the person responsible, Koko said.
The injured animal was spotted near the Black Stallion Ranch in Reche Canyon on Wednesday and no longer had the arrow lodged beneath his right ear, but the wound remained visible and some pieces of the arrow may still be embedded, Welsh said.
In an attempt to capture and treat it, officials hit the burro with two tranquilizer darts, but they had no apparent effect.
"The darts should have been enough and we are uncertain why they were not effective," Welsh said in an email. "It could have been a result of the animal being worked up earlier, prior to our arrival."
But Koko said it would likely be very difficult to tranquillize the otherwise healthy creature.
“The thing that people don’t really understand is that he’s a healthy burro, so he’s a lot more stronger than one that’s sick, injured or orphaned," she said. "Catching a wild burro — especially a jack — they’re fast.”
Local residents told KTLA there are several cases of wild donkeys being targeted, perhaps because of their willingness to approach strangers in search of food.
For Wednesday's rescue effort, the nonprofit coordinated a wrangler a help capture the donkey, while Animal Services was in charge of tranquilizing it.
County officials planned to return to the area Thursday morning for a renewed attempt at securing the donkey and transporting it for treatment.
Anyone with information on the incident can contact Animal Services at 951-358-7387 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.