Watch: Elephant on the loose in Montana

Elephant in Montana
Viola went for a stroll through Butte - NBC MONTANA

An elephant escaped from a circus in Montana and went for a walk around the city, closing roads and concerning locals.

Viola, an elephant at the Jordan World Circus, was spooked by a car backfiring while being washed by her handler and escaped into the town.

Videos posted on social media show the animal walking by the side of the road, after escaping from handlers while being cleaned.

The elephant was spooked by a backfiring car and took off towards a petrol station in Butte, Montana, according to NBC News.

Josh Hannifin, who runs the petrol station, told the network the event was “pretty exciting”.

“My coworker pointed out, ‘There’s an elephant!’ Started jumping up and down, pointing out the window,” he said.

“We ran out the door and finally caught a video of the elephant coming through the lot here.

“It’s not everyday you see an elephant walking down Harrison Avenue in Butte, Montana,” he said.

elephant in Montana
elephant in Montana

Local news reported that the road was briefly closed while the elephant was caught and safely returned to the circus.

Mataya Smith, who drove past as the incident unfolded, said: “[The handlers] did everything that they could to just kind of guide her.

“They didn’t push her, they didn’t force her, they just nicely asked her to move with them.

“They waited very patiently with her and just kind of petted her and gave her comfort and calmed her until the truck came by.”

Other witnesses said the elephant defecated on a lawn before she was caught.

One local TV news station described the “unbelievable scene” as an “unusual wildlife sighting”.

A spokesman for PETA, an animal rights campaign group, said the “desperate break for freedom” was explained by “decades of abuse and involuntary servitude” in the circus and being forced to perform “gruelling, painful tricks”.

The group has submitted a complaint to “federal authorities” about the circus’s “failure to protect Viola”, the spokesman said.