Calif. Family Spots Pet Donkey Missing 5 Years Living with an Elk Herd: He's a 'Wild Burro Now'

Diesel the donkey disappeared on a hike in northern California in 2019 and remained missing for years despite his owners' search efforts

<p>Max Fennel/Instagram</p> Donkey filmed living with a herd of wild elk

Max Fennel/Instagram

Donkey filmed living with a herd of wild elk

Diesel the donkey's owners assumed they would never see the animal again when he escaped on a hike near his California home in 2019 — until five years later when the donkey's family recognized Diesel in some startling footage.

According to CBS Sacramento, Terrie Drewry and her husband, Dave, lost Diesel during a hike near Cache Creek in Auburn, Calif. The couple spent weeks searching for the donkey but found nothing.

Five years later, in June 2024, Terrie and Dave saw footage of a donkey living among a herd of wild elk filmed by hunter Max Fennell in March.

"Probably one of my wildest hunting trips to date. I bumped into a herd of elk that had adopted a donkey. I can't get over seeing it and I'm amazed that the donkey looks happy and healthy!" Fennell captioned the video, which has over 151,000 likes on Instagram.

The video shows a donkey standing with over 10 elk. When the group of elk turns away and departs, the donkey follows with them.

Terrie and Dave told CBS Sacramento that when they recently saw the clip, they immediately knew the now-wild donkey was their missing pet.

"It was amazing. It was like, oh my gosh. Finally, we saw him. Finally, we know he's good. He's living his best life. He's happy. He's healthy, and it was just a relief," Terrie told CBS Sacramento.

Related: Animal Control Officer Finds Cat Missing for 12 Years in His Backyard: 'Just Unbelievable'

The Drewry family adopted Diesel from the Bureau of Land Management. For the first several years of his life, Diesel lived on their Auburn, Calif. ranch alongside the family's llama, a miniature donkey named Jack, and several chickens.

In April 2019, as Dave took Diesel and their llama out for a trail ride in the Cache Creek Wilderness — a remote area northwest of Sacramento covering almost 30,000 acres of land — the donkey got spooked and took off.

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"Diesel got spooked by something and literally drug Dave through the bushes," Terrie told CBS at the time of his disappearance, asking the public for help looking for him. "All of that gear can get tangled up, and if he gets tangled up, he's just a sitting duck for predators, and he can't get to water or food."

Despite intense efforts to find Diesel, including using drones and people searching the wooded areas on horseback, the donkey was never found — until Fennell's video taken just miles away from where the animal went missing on March 31.

Related: Animal Control Worker 'Puts on Detective Hat' to Reunite Cat Missing 11 Years with His Family

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Terrie told CBS that she's certain that the donkey in the video is Diesel, as there are no wild donkeys in the area. She also added that she believes he and his new elk family have a helpful relationship — he may be protecting the herd from predators.

"He's killed coyotes protecting the herd and possibly a mountain lion," Terrie said. "Two completely different creatures, but they learn to get along and be each other's family."

"To catch him would be next to impossible," she finished. "He is truly a wild burro now."

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