An emu-at-large is becoming a local celebrity in North Carolina after eluding would-be captors for at least three weeks.
The large flightless bird, a species native to Australia, has been spotted periodically around the state’s Chatham and Orange counties since June 26, according to The News & Observer. It’s unclear exactly where the emu came from, though officials suspect the bird escaped from a farm.
“At this point, no owner has come forward,” Orange County Animal Services spokesperson Tenille Fox told HuffPost in an email.
The most recent reported sighting was Thursday, when the bird was seen “running through someone’s yard” near the line between the two counties, Fox said. Before that, the big bird’s location had been pinpointed in Chatham County last week, but “he/she fled as soon as officers arrived on the scene.”
Fox also warned that anyone who sees the bird should alert animal control, but not try to deal with the bird themselves.
“We are urging the public NOT to approach, try to catch, or handle this animal,” Fox wrote. “This emu is pretty large and could potentially be dangerous if it becomes fearful or defensive.”
The News & Observer notes that the emu in question is believed to be around 5 feet tall, weighing over 100 pounds. John Brennan, a Chapel Hill resident who encountered the emu on a drive home from the library, described it to local news station WNCN as an “impressive animal.”
Authorities are also concerned for the bird’s well-being and fear that some efforts to catch the emu might further endanger it. Animal control hopes the bird will wander into a partially contained area, like a pasture or a semi-fenced spot, so that staff can corral the emu without causing too much stress.
“We worry about causing more stress in this heat,” Fox said. “We also don’t want the emu to wander onto a road with heavy traffic and get hit by a car. We hope he/she is finding ample water in this heat as well.”