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Posted on: August 1, 2019

Elusive emu evades capture, becomes international sensation

Photo of the loose emu

A wandering emu has eluded capture for weeks in Orange County, staying steps ahead of efforts to corral the flightless bird.

Orange County Animal Services Director Bob Marotto says Animal Control officers respond to sightings of the emu as they are reported. He encourages any resident who sees the bird to report it to animal control at 919-942-7387 between the hours of 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If a resident sees the bird during the day on Saturday or Sunday and can provide a precise location, Marotto said to call 911, which will relay the information to the Animal Control Officer on duty.

Marotto warns residents to not approach or try to capture the bird. Emus have sharp claws and can kick very hard, which could cause serious injury or even death. Marotto said if the bird wanders into an area where he can be contained, i.e. a pasture with fencing, residents should try to keep him there but should not approach the bird and should call animal control immediately.

An emu can run up to 30 mph and can make turns up to 180 degrees, making it very difficult to capture. Marotto said the county may enlist the aid of outside experts on any capture attempt. Because the animal is out of its normal habitat and alone, it is likely frightened and under duress, which will make catching it even harder, he said. If the county captures the emu, Marotto said they are working to find someone to adopt the animal.

"We are identifying some emu handlers through Cooperative Extension and other networks to assist with the capture if and when we have the opportunity," Marotto said.

The emu has already had two incidents with automobiles, and the concern is it could turn into a public safety hazard if he nears more populous areas of the county. He was seen on Davis Road near N.C. 54 on Tuesday, July 30, Marotto said, but appeared to have moved back to the South by later in the week. Animal Control Officers responded to a sighting on Aug. 1 and approached the bird, but he ran away. Animal Services spokesperson Tenille Fox said officers reported the emu did not appear injured.

The first reported sighting occurred in late June, said Fox. The emu's plight has drawn national and international attention, with stories in The New York Times, Huffington Post, Fox News, CNN and local outlets throughout the state as well as international outlets as far away as India and Australia.

So far, no one has claimed ownership of the emu.

Photo courtesy Chevy Peake.