The striped equid was one of two zebras that had fled a circus near the northeastern town of Tessin early that morning. One was safely captured before dawn, while the other disappeared for hours, according to a press release from Rostock district police.
The runaway zebra was spotted around 8 a.m. local time on the A20 motorway near the Tessin junction, where it disrupted traffic, damaged vehicles and caused an accident between two parallel cars.
No one -- including the zebra -- was injured in the collision, but the highway had to be shut down while authorities attempted to capture the animal, police said.
The zebra then ran over the engine hood of a vehicle and fled the closed-off motorway. A patrol car was also damaged and a policeman was left slightly injured.
The animal was next seen on a field near the northeastern village of Thelkow. The circus trainer responsible for handling the animal tried to restrain it but failed, police said.
Authorities ultimately called in an emergency animal rescue unit, and the zebra was shot near the highway. The animal "died on the spot," according to the police press release.
"The exact circumstances are still being clarified," police said.
The zebra's circus trainer, Angelo Madel, was in tears when speaking to German television channel RTL after the incident.
"A nightmare," he said, "there lies my child."
Madel, who has looked after the animal for years, said he feels betrayed.
"We wanted to catch it and had consulted with the police," he told RTL.