OXFORD - What's black and white and being read all over?
Online newspapers and television stations across the country have been abuzz since Wednesday morning, recounting the tale of an exotic, striped visitor called "Barcode" to the third floor of Oxford College's storied Seney Hall.
As public safety officials opened the classroom and office building Seney Hall at about 7 a.m., they came face to face with a zebra on the third floor, according to Oxford College Dean Stephen Bowen.
"It was probably brought in during the night," he said.
Richard Stern, a freshman student from Orlando, Fla., and a member of the school's student government, said he doesn't know who put the zebra in the building or what time it happened, but that fire alarms went off in his residence hall, Haygood House, at about 4:30 Wednesday morning.
In order to respond, public safety workers would have traveled down Clark Street to get to the Wesley Street dormitory, leaving Seney Hall on Hamill Street in seclusion.
"That might have been a diversion to get (the zebra) up there," he surmised.
Students said they believe the striped visitor is likely the result of a prank surrounding the college's Spirit Week festivities or a sophomore gag celebrating the end of the school year.
Not everyone was amused.
"I think it's a little ridiculous," said sophomore Natalie Labovitz.
Others enjoyed a break from classes on a sunny day - crowds of students and staff gathered around Seney Hall from 8:30 a.m. until after noon.
"Everybody is very energetic," Stern said.
Bowen said late Wednesday morning that school officials don't know who might have pulled the prank.
"It could have been a student or alumni," he said, adding that the culprit could have even been a local resident.
"There's no way to know," he said.
Bowen said the prank is similar to one pulled at the school during the '60s, when a cow found its way to a third-floor office.
"We had to build a special crane to get it down," he said.
But Bowen said this time the animal was taken down the elevator and onto a trailer without incident; the school had the crowd that surrounded Seney Hall roped off and encouraged them not to make any loud noises to avoid spooking the zebra.
Bowen said the building didn't sustain much damage from the night prowler, "other than a few zebra droppings," he said.
Newton County Animal Control arrived to retrieve the animal before 11 a.m.
Animal Control workers transported the zebra to the home of Curtis Jackson in Oxford, said Teri Key-Hooson, director of Newton County Animal Control. It was not known if the animal had been stolen from Jackson or if he knew of its whereabouts.
The Wildlife Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resources is now handling the case, which is still open, because Jackson does not hold a current license to own the zebra.
Robin Hill, spokeswoman for the Wildlife Division, said Jackson held a license from 1998 to 2000, but it has expired; he has not applied for one since.
Hill said DNR could seize the animal and the case could proceed to court.
Jackson could not be reached for comment as of press time Wednesday.
The school is treating the act as a "largely harmless student prank," Bowen said, adding that he doesn't want to find any more animals on campus.
"I'd be happy if this doesn't happen again in the next 50 years," he said. "It's disruptive the week before finals, and it's not the greatest experience for the zebra."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.