By Laura Haefeli

MARIPOSA COUNTY (CBS13) — Donkeys stranded on an island in Mariposa County are now safe after a massive rescue effort was led by a private wildlife group.

Whether it was a frog in his pocket or a blue-bellied lizard he brought to the dinner table, Daniel Burton always had a love for less appreciated wildlife.

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“They’re just so much more than just an animal,” he said.

Burton is now the owner of Urban Trapping Wildlife Control, which rescues nuisance animals with a bad rap.

“Most animals we work with have some sort of taboo or bad reputation,” Burton said. “They get kind of a bad name because of it.”

This week, Burton and several agencies in Northern California, including the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, rescued donkeys Jack and Jennette from an island in Lake McClure.

“It almost seemed impossible,” Burton said.

After weeks of trying, the group got the go-ahead to get the donkeys off the island and into a doctor’s care. The group loaded them onto a barge and took them across the water to safety.

“It was a huge relief,” Burton said.

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But how did the Donkeys get there? Burton said drought caused low water levels on Lake McClure, which allowed the donkey herd to walk across the lake to a small island – for safety.

“They were trying to get away from predators,” Burton said. “There’s a lot of mountain lions around Lake McClure.”

But when water levels rose again, only the healthy donkeys could swim back, leaving behind two of their own that were injured, but the herd waited across the water.

“They’ll go up into the foothills for food, and every couple of days, they come back down to the bank,” Burton said. “Their herd never really left as long as they could hear them and see them.”

Finally, a crew stepped in to rescue the two donkeys delivering them to a local vet who will care for them.

“Knowing the donkeys aren’t sitting on that island, they’re not borderline starving, they’re not going to drown, it was such a relief,” Burton said.

One of the rescued donkeys has been reunited with her mother who is also in the care of Dr. Davis.

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Back in 2019, a wild donkey was rescued from the island after being stuck there for more than two years.