What started as a local news story has reached the national audience in recent weeks as Orange County remains on the lookout for an emu on the loose.
The case of the missing emu, first spotted in late June, was originally reported on by the Daily Tar Heel, the News of Orange and other local outlets, but by July 19, even the New York Times had gotten a hold of the story.
The missing emu is now undoubtedly one of the more famous birds in the United States. In addition to a Twitter account with the name “OC_Emu,” EnotheEmu is now a trending hashtag on Twitter. The Orange County Sheriff’s Twitter account even tweeted an invitation out to the emu to attend the office’s National Night Out event on August 6. Tenille Fox, Orange County Animal Services spokesperson, said she believes the emu’s fame could be due in part to the fact that emus are not normally seen roaming around.
“I think the interesting element to this is that this is an emu and people don’t normally see emus free roaming and he’s doing a really good job of being fearful and running away from people, which is good,” Fox said.
The emu was first seen on June 26 and there have been several more reported sightings since that time. The latest reported sightings of the emu occurred Thursday and Friday. A person reported seeing the emu Thursday in a Facebook post to the page Hillsborough NC Community Info. The reported sighting occurred at the intersection of Dodsons Crossroads and Borland Road in Hillsborough.
We did get a call and we did respond,” Fox said in response to an inquiry about the sighting Thursday. “The attempt to catch him was unsuccessful. Today, he was spotted in the same area and our team went out, and my animal control manager just told me they were out there for a few hours and never even spotted him this morning. So he’s sticking to the same area both days.”
This was not the first time the emu has evaded capture.
The News of Orange reported that Orange County Animal Services collaborated with Chatham County Animal control in an attempt to corral the bird in early July. An Orange County officer was dispatched to help the Chatham County officers catch the emu, but to no avail.
“This emu is fast, so they’re having kind of a hard time unless they just happen to get him in an area where he can be contained a little more, like natural barriers or pasture, fence, something like that,” Fox told the News of Orange in July. “It’s going to be really difficult and they’re trying also to not stress him out too bad in this heat.”
In July, Fox said it would be difficult for the emu to stay moving due to hot temperatures and potential dehydration. As time has passed, those issues only become more concerning for the bird. Yet the emu has managed to stay hydrated, likely by staying close to locations with water, according to Fox.
“We can only assume that he’s probably sticking close to areas with water, like creeks,” Fox said. “When he was in the southern part of the county where we were mapping, the sites where he was being spotted it looks like there was a creek nearby so that’s probably where he was getting his water at that point. So we’re guessing that he’s finding water that way and he must be successfully foraging for food, to a degree.”
As News of Orange reported last month, Orange County Animal Services has contacted the known emu owners in the county and the owners stated the emu does not belong to them.
Emus can grow up to 6.5 feet and 100 pounds, so it is important that citizens do not try and make contact with the now notorious bird. However, the emu has not caused any damage to humans or property at this time.
If Orange County Animal Services is able to capture the emu, the bird could be headed to a rescue center, with the name of the center remaining confidential at this time due to the bird’s notoriety.
“For now, we prefer to let them remain unidentified with all the sensation that’s going on here because this may not happen but we have set up apparently a nice place for him to go if we do capture him,” Fox said.