Zebra on loose after escape in US mountain country

The small town of North Bend in Washington is famous for its mountain wildlife. Cougar and elk are often seen - bigfoot "sightings" are frequent.

Now something wilder has moved in - a zebra that escaped with three others earlier this week on the way to a zoo.

While locals quickly "wrangled" three, catching the fourth has proven to be anything but black and white.

Officials say the animal has moved into the Cascade Mountains - and efforts to catch it could take days.

The animals escaped from a trailer on Sunday while they were being moved to Montana.

Curious bystanders, including brunch-goers and a professional rodeo clown passing through town, managed to corner three of the zebras within hours after they wandered into a horse paddock.

But one remains on the loose five days later, leading to a large response by local volunteers and officials, and an outpouring of memes and silly adverts by Seattle-area businesses.

Dallas Clark, a professional tow company owner and horse trainer in his spare time, has been helping lead the volunteer effort to track down the missing zebra.

He's part of a group that normally helps rescue stray animals loose in the mountains - often hikers' dogs, but also the occasional farm animal.

The female zebra who was initially incorrectly reported to be a male "stallion", has been spotted by dozens of people throughout the week, and was last seen on Thursday morning.

It has been returning to a feeding station that his group erected to try to lure in the runaway, but lately the presence of curious Pacific Northwest safari-goers has been scaring the zebra farther into the national forest, he says.

Trail cameras confirm that it is eating and drinking and is generally healthy, despite temperatures that have dropped down to near-freezing at night, and the confirmed presence of a mountain lion in the area.

"We have been out in rain, shine, snow, thunder, lightning just to make sure we know how it's doing," says Mr Dallas, 28, adding that much of the search is being done on horseback in thick steep vegetation.

"None of us has ever done a zebra before so this is all new. But we're trying to treat it no different than we would any other animal that's lost in the woods," he says.

Meanwhile, locals have gone wild with zebra jokes online, posting photos of chefs wearing zebra-print aprons, AI images of a Bigfoot riding zebra, and pictures of the town's local elk with fake zebra stripes.

Mr Glass is critical of the official response so far, and calls for government officials to close trails in the area to keep people from spooking the animal.

Residents of the town where the 1990s cult classic Twin Peaks was filmed are now glued to Facebook for updates on the elusive creature.

Mr Glass says he's confident the zebra will eventually be caught, but only after rescuers can build up "trust with it" and after the public has given it time to "mellow".