A Lost Pet Donkey From California Found Living With Elk Herd

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jun 21, 2024

Diesel, a pet donkey, went missing during a hike in April 2019 near Sacramento, California. Spooked by something unknown, Diesel bolted, dragging his owner Dave Drewry through the bushes.

Despite extensive searches by the Drewry family, Diesel remained elusive in the vast 30,000-acre Cache Creek Wilderness.

The Drewry Family's Search Efforts

Terrie and Dave Drewry adopted Diesel from the Bureau of Land Management, and he lived peacefully on their ranch.

multiple notes with question mark and a magnifying glass

After his escape, the family tirelessly searched for weeks, utilizing trail cameras and tracking potential hoof prints, but Diesel remained out of sight, leading them to fear the worst.

A Hunter's Unusual Sighting

In March 2024, Max Fennell, a professional triathlete and occasional hunter, encountered a surprising sight during a hunting trip.

herd of elk

Source: peterwchen/Wikimedia Commons

Among a herd of elk, Fennell spotted a donkey moving in unison with the elk. He captured the moment on video, amazed by the donkey’s healthy appearance and integration into the herd.

The Video That Sparked Hope

Fennell’s video quickly gained attention on Instagram, eventually reaching the Drewry family. Upon seeing the video, Terrie Drewry was convinced that the donkey in the footage was indeed Diesel.

Diesel the donkey with elk herd

Source: Max Fennell/Instagram

“Finally, we know he’s good. He’s living his best life,” she told KOVR. The video brought relief and joy to the family, knowing Diesel had survived and adapted to the wild.

Diesel's New Life Among Elk

Living with the elk herd, Diesel seemed to have found a new family. Donkeys are known for their protective nature, and Diesel likely assumed the role of a guardian within the herd.

A sign for the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in Inyo National Forest seen in the daytime with mountains in the distance.

Source: daveynin/Wikimedia Commons

This unexpected companionship showcased the adaptability and social nature of donkeys in the wild.

Max Fennell's Perspective

Fennell described the encounter as one of his wildest hunting trips. “I can’t get over seeing it and I’m amazed that the donkey looks happy and healthy!” he wrote on Instagram.

A woman is pictured texting on her phone

Source: Freepik

His astonishment highlighted the unique and heartwarming nature of Diesel’s story, captivating many who viewed the video.


The Benefits of Wild Living

Donkeys, like Diesel, are grazing animals that can find plenty to eat in the wild. Diesel’s ability to thrive in the wilderness, despite being a domesticated animal, shows their resilience and natural instincts.

A photograph of the Canadian wilderness

Source: Wikimedia

His integration with the elk herd also points to the harmonious relationships that can develop in nature.


A Previous Sighting

In September 2023, another video surfaced, purportedly showing Diesel with his elk companions. The donkey appeared content, trotting through tall grass in the sunlight.

A photograph of purple-colored grass

Source: Wikimedia

This earlier sighting, although not widely recognized at the time, further supported the idea of Diesel’s successful adaptation to the wild.


Diesel's Decision to Stay Wild

Despite the family’s longing for Diesel, they decided against recapturing him. Recognizing his independence and well-being, they chose to let him continue his life in the wild.

A herd of caribou graze in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska

Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images

“He’s truly a wild burro now,” Terrie Drewry said, expressing her acceptance and happiness for Diesel’s new life.


A Tale of Unexpected Friendship

Diesel’s story is an example of the unexpected bonds that can form in nature. His integration with the elk herd and his likely role as a protector highlight the social and adaptive behaviors of animals.

A deer seen in a national park in the United States.

Source: Katie Moum/Unsplash

This heartwarming tale has touched many, offering a glimpse into the remarkable world of animal friendships.


Lessons from Diesel's Journey

Diesel’s journey from a ranch donkey to a wild burro living with elk offers valuable lessons about resilience, adaptability, and the bonds of nature.

A large deer is pictured drinking water

Source: Freepik

It reminds us of the importance of allowing animals to find their place and thrive in their natural environments, even when it defies our expectations.


The Drewry Family's Message

The Drewry family hopes Diesel’s story inspires others to appreciate the resilience and adaptability of animals.

The sunlight shining through tree branches in the daytime.

Source: Jessica Sysengrath/Unsplash

They believe Diesel’s successful adaptation to the wild serves as a reminder of the importance of respecting and protecting wildlife.