WATCH: Startled Circus Elephant Goes on the Lamb in Montana

The sound of a vehicle backfiring startled a circus elephant as she took a pre-show bath in Butte, Montana, forcing the pachyderm to break through a fence and take a short walk, snarling afternoon traffic on the busiest street of the city was stopped before being reloaded. in a trailer.

Viola, an Asian elephant at the Jordan World Circus, took part in two more performances Tuesday after her time on the run in the southwestern Montana city of about 35,000 that was the world's largest copper-producing area in the late 1800s.

Viola was bathing behind the Butte Civic Center just after noon Tuesday when she was startled, Civic Center Manager Bill Melvin said.

She went through a “kind of rickety” gate and onto Harrison Avenue, a four-lane street, where traffic was stopped and people took out their cellphones to take photos and videos.

Olivia LaBeau, 21, was driving home after a coffee break when the elephant strolled in front of oncoming traffic. One car started to back up and LeBeau stopped her car as the elephant casually walked to the other side of the road.

“I actually had to do a double take,” she said. “I thought I was seeing things.”

She made a video of the elephant.

“I had to get my phone out because I think if I had told anyone they wouldn't have believed me,” she said. “It's a very absurd thing to see in Montana.”

Viola walked about half a block down the road before pulling into the parking lot of a convenience store and casino, Melvin said.

Town Pump's surveillance cameras captured footage from several angles of the elephant walking down the street in front of the building and plodding through the parking lot with a trainer at her side.

She then moved to a residential lawn where she started eating some grass.

People from the circus drove there with a trailer containing another elephant, Melvin said. They “set up the ramp and she walked right back in and that was it.”

“The other elephant was very happy to see her,” Melvin said.

About 10 minutes passed from the time she was shocked to the time she was back in the trailer, he said.

“She came back and performed last night and everything was good,” Melvin said. “I mean, the show went on, as they say.”

At least two animal rights groups – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Compassion Works International – criticized the incident, saying it endangered the elephant and the public and could have been avoided if circuses did not force the animals to perform.

Viola and the Jordan World Circus have performances in the state capital Helena on Wednesday.

Dupuy reported from New York City; AP reporter Sarah Brumfield contributed from Silver Spring, Maryland.

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