Emu spent time on the loose in E'town

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Officer shoots bird after failed attempts to capture it

By Sarah Bennett

Drivers traveling Saturday morning on Dixie Avenue in Elizabethtown may have noticed a strange sight: Police cars with flashing lights in pursuit of an emu.

Virgil Willoughby, spokesman for Elizabethtown Police Department, said the department received a number of calls Saturday regarding the emu — a flightless bird native to Australia — with the first coming in at 10:41 a.m.

According to Willoughby, callers saw the emu trotting along Rineyville Road and crossing Ring Road. It eventually made its way to Dixie, and at one point, stopped in Sonic Drive-In’s parking lot.

Two Elizabethtown officers, a Hardin County Animal Control officer and two Kentucky State Police troopers spent a little more than an hour pursuing the bird but ultimately were unsuccessful in detaining it,Willoughby said.

Hardin County Deputy Judge-Executive Jim Roberts said the animal control official attempted to apprehend the emu using food. However, the bird ran away and he lost sight of it.

Willoughbysaid officers also attempted to stop the emu using a Taser but were unsuccessful.

After following the bird to a creek bed near Willow Creek Road and the U.S. 31W Bypass, one of the police officers shot it at 11:59 a.m. Saturday, Willoughby said.

Though the bird was not a danger to public safety at that point, he said it already had crossed several roadways and parking lots.

“Nobody actually wanted to shoot it,” Willoughby said.

Jane Anne Franklin, an animal curator at the Louisville Zoo, said emus are strong enough to fend off dingoes in the wild. If cornered, the bird can kick “pretty hard” and using its middle toe could try to disembowel a predator, she said.

Franklin, who has worked at the zoo for 23 years, added emus have more of a “flight response than a fight response.”

The birds trot at an “energy-efficient speed” and can cover large distances for a long time, she said. According to USDA, they can run up to 40 mph.

Roberts said Animal Control secured the emu’s carcass. The bird did not have identification, he said, and officials are unsure from where it broke loose.

“We, to this time, do not know where it came from,” Roberts said Monday afternoon.

Asked if it was possible the emu came from a nearby farm, he said he was unsure and did not know of any emu farms in the area.

Matt Adams, a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture, said emus can be farmed for meat but added it is an “extremely specialized meat” with a small market.

According to Adams, an emu on a farm in this area is a “novelty” and he did not know of any emu farms in Hardin County.

This is not the first time in the last year Hardin County Animal Control has been called in reference to a loose emu, Roberts said.

In September, animal control captured an emu near Red Mill Road, he said.

“The man who captured this one was the one who took the call Saturday,” Roberts said.

After nobody claimed the emu, Roberts said it was adopted Nov. 29 by owners in New Haven.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.