As It Happens

Toronto animal lover comes within arms reach of escaped capybara

He's proven an adept hunter of the world's largest rodent. Daniel Giannone, an amateur rodent tracker, has come close to re-capturing one of the capybaras that escaped from a Toronto zoo.
Amateur rodent hunter Daniel Giannone stumbled upon a capybara by the side of the road in Toronto's High Park. (Daniel Giannone)
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After two weeks and hundreds of sightings, one man came within a few meters of catching one of the capybaras that escaped from the High Park zoo in Toronto.

Daniel Giannone tells As It Happens host Carol Off that he wasn't actively searching for the two escaped capybaras but he was drawn into the hunt after he stumbled upon one during an evening walk.

"When I first spotted it, it was sitting on the side of the road by the pond," says Giannone.

"At first I mistook it for a small dog, then it turned its head towards me and I noticed it was one of the missing capybaras."

Giannone planned to get close enough to the rodent to throw his shirt over its head, an idea he got from a friend who is knowledgeable about exotic animals.  "I got a few people to call 311 and animal services for me. I just tried to grab some vegetation and call it over towards me."

A male capybara. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

He says his plan was thwarted when another bystander charged the scene and tried to grab the capybara. The spooked rodent fled towards a pond.

Giannone followed the capybara and alerted authorities.

City staff placed live traps in the area to catch the capybaras but have so far failed to capture them.

Megan Price, with the city's parks department, says that the park is a good habitat for the rodents and provides an abundance of food, so the live baited traps are not such a draw.

Officials have been unable to recapture two escaped capybaras from a zoo in Toronto. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

City staff say the capybaras will likely get caught in one of those traps when food sources dwindle in the fall. So #capybarawatch may trend through the summer.

For his part, Giannone will reduce his efforts so he doesn't spook the rodents away from where they were last spotted. "I'm just hoping people will stay back so that they (staff) can capture the animal."

With files from CBC News

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