Sinkhole swallows tiny burro, but construction crew comes to the rescue

A Riverside County resident got stuck in a sinkhole Thursday, requiring an unconventional rescue operation, officials said.

A concerned citizen called about 9 a.m. to report that a burro was in a hole near High Grove Pass and Pigeon Pass roads, said John Welsh, a spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

“I’m not sure exactly how that occurred,” he said. “I think it was just really kind of a fluke situation.”

The animal was believed to have slipped into the hole sometime in the overnight or early-morning hours. Video from the scene showed the burro trapped several feet below the surface, with only its head and neck visible.

Animal control officers were preparing to use shovels to dig a makeshift ramp for the burro to walk out of the hole when a nearby construction crew offered to help, Welsh said. The workers from Inland Erosion Control Inc. used an earth excavator to make the ramp in a fraction of the time it would have taken to dig by hand, and the burro was freed about 11 a.m.


“The burro was able to scurry out — it almost pranced out — and did not appear to have any injuries,” Welsh said. “So that was a very happy moment right there.”

The animal then ran toward the hills, where other burros were grazing.

“That was probably the burro’s buddies, and they were waiting for their friend to come out,” he said, noting that the animals travel in herds.

Hundreds of burros call the area home, and the department responds to a handful of calls concerning the small donkeys each year, usually when they are struck by cars. But this was the first time anyone could recall a burro in a sinkhole.

“I’ve been with the department for 13 years, and I do not remember anything like this,” Welsh said. “It’s very unusual.”