It’s 5 feet tall, weighs 100 pounds and has been running loose in central North Carolina for more than three weeks.
It’s an emu, a flightless bird native to Australia and the world’s second-largest bird, and it’s been spotted at least five or six times since June 26, officials said.
The elusive, feathered creature has apparently been traveling within a 12-square-mile area, crossing between Orange County and Chatham County — and staying one step ahead of animal control officials, who have approached it at least twice.
“It’s become quite a sensation,” said Tenille Fox, a spokeswoman for Orange County Animal Services. “With all of the media coverage, we were hoping that we would be able to find an owner.”
There have been no reports of property damage or human injury caused by the animal, officials said. Animal control officials haven’t gotten close enough to determine whether the bird is male or female — emus can run faster than 30 miles per hour, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo. Officials speculated that the emu was most likely from a nearby farm.
Local news outlets have been providing regular updates on the evasive bird, which certainly wouldn’t be the first animal escape in recent years to attract attention. There have been many, including goats in Idaho, llamas in Arizona and a peacock in New York.
The emu was first spotted June 26, and the latest sighting was reported Thursday morning in someone’s yard.
While the emu did not have an official nickname as of Friday afternoon, Ms. Fox said the name “Fluffy” came up several times.
It’s legal to have emus as pets or livestock in Orange County, and Ms. Fox said at least a few farms have them. There are more than 11,000 emus on United States farms, according to the Department of Agriculture’s 2017 census, but it’s not common for them to run away, Ms. Fox said.
“I’ve been here over two years and this has not happened,” Ms. Fox said. “I’ve heard it’s been about a decade.”
Ms. Fox said officials called a nearby farmer who owns an emu. He told them his emu was accounted for, though he said he’d be happy to help contain the missing emu if it showed up on his property to fraternize with his bird.
Ms. Fox warned citizens not to chase or handle the emu. A frightened bird could be dangerous, she said. She advised people to call law enforcement or animal services if they spotted it. “It can kick pretty hard if it gets defensive,” she said.
Animal control is more likely to receive reports about goats, pigs or cows roaming where they shouldn’t be than emus, Ms. Fox said. Just last month, a lost pig was corralled in a fenced-in dog park.
Ms. Fox said she hoped the emu would be contained in a similar way. Once officials track it down, the goal is to box it in, then load it into a trailer without frightening it.