A free-spirited emu who became a North Carolina celebrity after running rogue in two counties for months has died after being captured.
“We are incredibly sad about what happened today,” Orange County Animal Services spokesperson Tenille Fox told HuffPost in an email.
OCAS director Bob Marotto said in a county statement about the bird’s death that “everyone is devastated.”
Locals in the state’s Orange and Chatham counties had started spotting the bird, later nicknamed Eno, popping up in various locations in late June. Emus are native to Australia and officials suspected that Eno had escaped from a local farm, though throughout the ordeal, no one ever stepped forward as the owner.
Animal control workers had hoped to be able to lure Eno to a location where they could corral the bird without causing too much stress, Fox told HuffPost in July. That plan seemed to be progressing in August, when the county posted on Facebook that Eno was “settling down in a specific area” where food and water had been left out.
But the plan, which the county noted was developed in collaboration with an avian veterinarian and specialists from the North Carolina Zoo, went awry on Thursday and ended with Eno’s death.
Fox told HuffPost that a team of people arrived at Eno’s location in Chapel Hill at around 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, and once they spotted Eno, fed the bird sedatives via grapes and bananas.
“Once they tried restraint, it was clear that the sedatives had not worked as expected,” she said.
Eno “eventually collapsed during restraint” and attempts at CPR were unsuccessful.
“We do not know if the bird had a heart attack or something similar,” said Fox.
If the capture had been successful, the plan had been for Eno to be relocated to The Blind Spot Animal Sanctuary in Rougemont.
Marotto noted in the county statement that officials had not considered leaving Eno in the wild to be a “viable option” due to hazards like traffic and the impending hunting season in the region.
“Of course we were hoping for a much better ending to this story but we were always concerned that something like this could happen,” Fox said. “So, we expended a massive amount of time and resources trying to avoid any harm that might come to this animal. Unfortunately, we were not successful.”
This story has been updated with comments from Tenille Fox.