Emu on the run in Orange County gains international headlines, Twitter followers

A month since the first reports of an emu running around the Orange-Chatham county line, animal services is still hot — or cold — on its trail.

As it eludes capture, with more and more reported sightings, its following keeps growing too.

The large Australian bird has spurred articles in The New York Times and HuffPost.

10Daily, an Australian news site, spread the news with the headline, “Escaped Emu Evading Capture, Confusing Residents In North Carolina Town.”

The emu — pronounced e-myoo — even has its own Twitter account, @OCEmu1.

Catching the flightless bird won’t be nearly as easy as tweeting about it, though.

Orange County Animal Services spokesperson Tenille Fox has said their only hope right now is the bird accidentally traps itself long enough to be captured. That would require a tall fence and quick reporting because the 5-foot, 100-pound bird can outrun and outjump any other animal in the area.

One North Carolina emu farm owner told The News & Observer local police had contacted him for advice, but he declined to say what he told them.

In a Delaware Online report on an escaped emu that was captured near Odessa, Del., in 2015, the bird was caught after it got fenced in and had a net thrown over it.

Also in that story, emu farm owner Matt Chapman mentioned two tactics that he previously had used to catch the big birds: Shooting it with a tranquilizer dart and tackling it by jumping off an ATV (with someone else driving). He said that the second option “hurt a little bit.”

John Gerwin, an ornithologist at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, jokingly mused that it might be fun to bring a cowboy in with a lasso to wrangle it.

But the act of catching the emu can be dangerous for both the bird and humans, which is why authorities have urged residents to stay away from it. Just earlier this year, a zookeeper in Adelaide, Australia, was kicked and scratched while trying to feed an emu, suffering minor injuries to the face and arms.

On the other hand, police in Gibsonville, a North Carolina town between Greeensboro and Burlington, tried to capture a loose emu two years ago by grabbing it and tying a rope around its legs. But the emu died in the struggle.

Animal Services has said heat and other factors are possible concerns for the bird’s health. In Australia the emu’s natural predator is the dingo, which is similar in size to the coyote, a native here.

If you see the emu, call:

Orange County Animal Services: 919-942-7387

Chatham County Animal Services: 919-542-7203

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Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary and other odds and ends. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and is a Collegiate Network fellow.