Red Creek is often called out to pick up large birds such as Red Tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls. We even get in the occasional Eagle. Those birds may seem formidable… but nothing prepared us for the task before us today.
For the past three months we’ve been getting calls from the 911 dispatch center, as well as local residents, on an elusive mystery bird that has been spotted occasionally running about the Pine Grove area. Several animal agencies have attempted to capture it but the bird either escaped or disappeared each time. That is easy to understand for a shy animal that can run 30 mph – the emu. An emu is about 6.5 feet tall and can weight up to 130 pounds. That’s a big bird! Actually, it’s the second largest bird in the world.
Today we received a call from Diane Buhl of Schuylkill CART and also the Dept of Agriculture. The bird was reported to be sick or injured and laying on someone’s porch. Morrie and I responded with a huge net and large mesh cage. If the bird was down, we figured it shouldn’t be difficult to capture. The only other information we had was an obscure address along a busy roadway.
We knocked on doors and looked on porches. No one in the area seemed to be home. The ground was snow covered so we also looked for large bird footprints but to no avail. The bird had once again eluded our search. As we slowly drove through the area again, suddenly the bird appeared on the road in front of us. Cars were coming in both directions as the bird ran straight down the yellow line. The situation went from an animal rescue to a public safety issue where motorists were at risk.
Morrie went immediately into action, jumped out of the van and ran up to the bird, attempting to shoo it off the road. A car drove by and bumped the bird. I parked the van and threw on my four way blinkers as Morrie grabbed the bird around the neck and pushed it out of traffic to the roadside. We both piled on the bird, and it took both of us to wrestle it to the ground. We were trying not to injure ourselves or the bird while trying to avoid being hit by a vehicle. The bird was strong enough to lift me right off my feet and for a moment I though I was about to become a bird jockey. After several minutes of struggling we finally had it wrapped in a net. I laid on the bird holding it down while Morrie ran for the mesh cage, which was still in the van.
I wish people would be more careful when driving by a scene where there is obviously a problem. I know seeing a woman lying on top of a 90 pound bird is unusual, but one man kept driving while rubbernecking to see me — and almost hit Morrie. Morrie’s booming voice saved him as he got the man’s attention right before a collision.
So there we were laying on top of this bird figuring out how to get him into the cage. Morrie asks me “what next?” and all I could answer was, “I have no idea. I never caught an emu before. It’s not Pennsylvania wildlife!”
I could feel the bird start to struggle again beneath me and it worked its way partly out of the net… and backed itself right into the crate. We hurriedly zipped it shut and we had him.
Two State Troopers stopped and the second stayed directing traffic. He also helped lift the bird into the van. We were on our way home. I called Diane back and she arranged for help to meet us back at the center.
Gathered at the center was Morrie and I accompanied by Diane and Kim Cavanaugh. Two Republican & Herald reporters came as we were discussing how to get the bird into an outdoor kennel without it escaping. They videoed and photographed the procedure which, with careful planning, went smoothly. The links to the story, more pictures and video are listed here and above.
Once confined, the massive bird calmed down and even was quite friendly.