Emu on the loose

Published 7:01 pm Saturday, June 19, 2010

At least two 5-foot birds have been creating quite a stir in Suffolk neighborhoods since Monday.

The first of two escaped emus was caught and transported to its new home, but another, thought to be the captured emu’s mate, is believed to still be wondering in a neighborhood behind King’s Fork High School.

The Suffolk Animal Control is advising residents to stay a respectful distance from the bird until it is secured.

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“At this point, we’re concerned about public safety and the animal’s safety,” said Suffolk Animal Control Officer Katie Whitaker. “People need to stay a safe distance. Don’t attempt to feed it. If too many people come around it, it may aggravate or upset it.”

Whitaker said there have been unconfirmed reports that children are throwing rocks at the bird and some parents have put their children on the bird.

“The bird has very long talons, and if it feels threatened it may use them,” Whitaker said. “This is not a petting zoo. If the bird harms anyone, we are obligated to put it down.”

Animal control attempted to secure the bird Thursday but was unsuccessful because the bird was so skittish.

According to various reports, it is believed the bird was one of three belonging to a local farmer. One emu was shot after reportedly scratching its owner, and that two Suffolk citizens may have tried to rescue the other birds, after which point the birds escaped and were roaming local neighborhoods since last weekend.

“My cat has been having fun,” said Nancy Conklin, who lives in the neighborhood. “We have screened porches and he watches the bird. He knew it was a big bird. He crouched up the screen like he was stalking something and his tail got as big as a bottle brush. He runs from window to window to watch it.”

Conklin said the bird was still in the neighborhood on Friday morning.

When the bird is secured, Whitaker said it would be transported to Oak Crest Farm near Smithfield. Conklin also said she has received a call from the curator of the Virginia Zoo who said they would be interested in taking the bird if needed.