A stealthy nighttime operation has been planned to lure back the High Park Zoo’s runaway capybaras.
As darkness falls Wednesday food will be laid as bait in the enclosure the pair refused to call home, and “capybara-enticing noises” will be played to make the Bonnie-and-Clyde strays feel welcome, said parks spokeswoman Megan Price.
All the while, city staff will be covertly monitoring the pen from a nearby capybara surveillance truck, waiting to run out and close the gate on the fugitive dog-sized creatures.
“The faster we catch them the better for them,” Price said.
“We want to bring them back in a kind, gentle way,” said local councillor Sarah Doucette
The plan comes after a missed opportunity Tuesday night when searchers were too slow off the mark to nab one of the runaway rodents when it made a return visit to its intended pen.
Mayor John Tory, who toured the pen Wednesday, cheered the cleverness of the mission.
“I’m amazed at the resourcefulness of the people at the zoo to develop a plan to get them back,” Tory said.
“We would ordinarily be relying on the raccoon nation to provide us intelligence on the whereabouts of the capybaras but they have been in a state of war with us over the new green bins,” he joked after a photo op with the lone remaining capybara, a male named Chewie.
Some 30 city parks and zoo staff are on the case, which began when the strays — a male and female — bolted as the duo were being for the first time transferred into the enclosure Tuesday morning.
The somewhat exotic animals — which resemble giant hamsters — are technically the largest rodents in the world, with the pair weighing around 30 lbs each.
The city says capybaras are not considered dangerous but could be “skittish,” and residents are advised to stay away and call 311 if spotted.
Price said they can be difficult to find because they can remain still, silent and submerged under water for hours with just their noses sticking out.
If they elude capture for more than five days they’ll have proven better escapees than the peacock that fled the zoo last year. The colourful bird managed to reach several nearby houses, fluttering from roof to roof, before being caught.
With files from David Shum, Cindy Pom and The Canadian Press