Emus are not generally found in the wild in America, or in captivity. In fact, there are little more than around 13,000 of the creatures on US soil.
What is more, the Australian native can be calm, curious and playful if treated well. But if startled or threatened, the giant birds can be vicious. They are known to use their powerful legs and three-toed feet to assault those they consider hostile.
That may be why residents of one New Jersey neighborhood were startled and, by all accounts, a little frightened on Tuesday as an emu rampaged through their streets.
The emu, which was on the loose in a residential area of Passaic County, was eventually caught with a net and transported to a local animal shelter, according to a report on nj.com.
Officials said the animal was calm as rescue experts approached and were eventually able to enclose it in the net.
Nonetheless, before that intervention, the large bird evidently caused quite a stir, and perhaps a little panic.
“It was running down the street and people didn’t know what the hell it was. They kept calling us,” John DeCando, chief animal control officer for Paterson, told nj.com.
The bird was spotted about 9:45 am in a neighborhood on the Paterson-Totowa border, DeCando said.
Animal control officers used a net to humanely catch the bird, which is about 3 and 1/4 to 4-feet tall, DeCando added.
The emu was then placed in a large crate inside an animal control van and transported to the local shelter, DeCando said.
While emus are rare in North Jersey, DeCando said it’s possible the animal wandered off a farm or came from nearby Garrett Mountain, where unusual and rare birds are a common sight.
DeCando said his officers contacted the Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital in Bergen County and were in the process late Tuesday morning of coordinating a veterinary exam for the bird.
Despite the happy ending to the bird scare, it appears the animal’s hygiene leaves something to be desired.
“The emu appears healthy,” DeCando said. “I can’t tell you (its age) or sex. But I can tell you it needs a bath.”