URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — An emu is on the loose in Central Illinois and one man thinks it might be his.
It was on I-74 near Urbana Tuesday, but police couldn’t grab it. Experts say it can be tough.
They’re big birds, weigh around 100 pounds, and can run anywhere from 20-30 miles per hour. Plus, the more you try to approach them, the more they run away.
“Well good luck, it is a challenge to catch a bird that big when it doesn’t want to be caught,” said Ken Frye, the director of the Scovill Zoo.
Illinois State Police realized this firsthand when they tried to catch an emu that was on the interstate near Urbana. They got the call that a large animal was running across the road and was almost hit.
“They are powerful runners. They can go over 30 miles an hour,” said Frye.
He says this emu would have to be confined to one space to be caught, but even that may not be enough.
“They’re pretty elusive. They can jump over a seven-foot fence,” said Frye.
Lance Dillon of Vermillion County believes this bird may be his. All of his emus were let out of their fence last summer. He wrangled them all with the help of the vermilion county animal control, but one of them broke out again a couple of months later.
“I don’t envy their job. Trying to catch an emu is tricky and they have to be weary when they do it,” said Frye.
He says he almost got it back. But when the bird was put in the trailer the door failed and it got out again. Dillon says emus can travel as far as 20 miles a day and believes this one made its way from Danville to Urbana over the last eight months.
“Surviving the winter isn’t unusual for an emu. It’s typically what it does in the wild as well,” said Frye.
The Champaign County Animal Control believes if the proper resources aren’t used, this free bird will never be caught. Aside from being fast, it also gets defensive if it feels trapped. But Frye says if authorities can get close enough there is a way around that.
“If you do get a hold of them the best thing to do is cut off a sweatshirt sleeve or something just to slip over their heads. Once they lose the vision part of things they really calm down,” said Frye.
He says if you see the emu, the best thing you can do is call the authorities. Do not try to approach it as it can be dangerous.