Eighty camels “invaded” three Russian villages after being allowed to roam free by their elderly owner, according to local residents.
The two-humped animals are accused of breaking down fences, trampling through gardens, damaging water and gas pipelines and stripping fruit from the trees.
Villagers even claimed they were too scared to leave their homes in the Astrakhan region because of the rampaging herd.
“If you look one directly in the eyes… the animal chases you, and you have to run away,” resident Yelena Bakhtemyeva told Interfax news agency. “When a herd walks, it sweeps away everything in its path.”
Former owner, 83-year-old Yuri Serebryakov, released the animals because he was getting too old to look after them, officials said.
He has refused to take responsibility for the camels’ behaviour and is instead trying to sell them for nearly £700 pounds each.
“I won’t give them away,” he told state-owned national TV station Rossiya 1 after it was suggested he should hand them over to a zoo. “It’s too late for that.”
The divisional prosecutor’s office are now investigating a complaint about “illegal grazing of camels” from the villages of Oranzherei, Fyodorovka, and Ninovka.
“It has been preliminary established that the camel breeder abandoned animal husbandry,” a spokesman told TASS news agency.
“The rest of the circumstances will be clarified during the prosecutor’s check and compliance with the legislation governing the procedure for keeping and grazing farm animals.”
Natalya Butuzova, the head of the Ikryaninsky district, said officials were still trying to work out how to tackle what she called an “invasion of camels”.
“It is a whole business to transport them,” she said. “It is impossible to shoot them, especially as this is someone else’s property.”