Fisherman trying to rescue donkey trapped for 3 years on Lake McClure island

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Right in the middle of Lake McClure in Mariposa County sits an island of dry vegetation, trees, and a donkey.

That caught the eye of Harry Markarian. The retired Merced Police Detective noticed the donkey back in 2017 while he was out on his boat fishing.

Since then he has been trying to get the donkey back on the mainland, but that's easier said than done.

"The fear is putting her back with the herd like we were going to do. Because she would be the weakest link of the herd and the mountain lions," Markarian said.

Markarian has a plan to rescue the donkey that's picked up the name "Hillary" but he's working against time since Lake McClure falls under the jurisdiction of several local, state and federal agencies.

While his frustration is increasing, so are the water levels.

The donkey came from one side of the lake in the drought of 2016. But the heavy rains of 2017 and 2019 quickly increased water levels trapping it on this island which is only an acre.

This video from the drought shows how significantly water levels dropped on the lake.

Markarian gathered up help for a rescue that included a veterinarian and donkey expert. But last Saturday the California Department of Fish and Wildlife wasn't so sure and put things on hold.

"They were going to tranquilize her and put her on a tarp, put her on a boat, take her to the dock and get off the boat. Into a horse trailer and take her to a rescue," Markarian said.

The donkey has an injured leg and has lost a significant amount of weight.

Markarian says people who visit Lake McClure are helping out, too. Since the grass on the island is just about gone, people have been dropping off hay, pellets, and apples.

"People are concerned about her. They want to feed her and keep her alive because there is nothing here for her to eat. Hardly anything," he said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife will soon see first-hand the situation with "Hillary." Markarian says he will show their department's wildlife experts the situation and explain the rescue plan in person.

"He's coming out here tonight, and I'm going to show him. And I told him with all these people making decisions and no one has been out here," he said.

Markarian should know in a few days if and when his rescue operation could happen.
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