Visitors to the forested north coast occasionally happen upon a scene out of the Serengeti.
In a large pasture along a road near Petrolia, were three zebras.
Two of the African animals — named Randy and Josephine — were acquired years ago by a local ranch owner. Josephine then gave birth to the third, L.C. (for Lost Coast).
“They’ve been like an icon for the whole county,” said Jim Redd, a Eureka real estate agent.
So it was shocking this month when a caretaker for the animals found Randy about 20 yards from the roadway dead from a single gunshot wound.
The news echoed across Humboldt County, setting off outrage. Some demanded retributive justice in online comment threads. A website was set up to raise reward money — now up to about $6,000 — for the gunman’s capture.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s office said it’s investigating. But nearly two weeks since the killing, no arrests have been made.
It was unclear how the zebras first came to live on the property, known as the Lost Coast Ranch. Its owner was unidentified by law enforcement and unable to be reached by phone.
Rex Bohn, a Humboldt County supervisor, said the zebras were “awe inspiring.”
He recalled a horse being shot with a bow and arrow a few years back. But targeting a zebra was somehow harder to comprehend.
“If somebody did it just because they’ve got that much spite in their system that they’d do something that cruel, then it scares the hell out of me,” he said.
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The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Davis.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.