By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
It wasn’t a wild goose chase, but it was close.
Gardendale police had to deal with a elusive fugitive on Wednesday, but it wasn’t a human on the lam. It was instead an emu — a large, flightless bird that resembles an ostrich — which was running free around a neighborhood in the southern part of the city.
Calls came into the department just after lunchtime, as residents in the Parker Avenue and Skelton Drive area reported seeing the bird roaming through streets and backyards.
“Somebody said they saw this creature come out of the woods that was about seven feet tall,” Gardendale Police spokesman Lt. Bryan Lynch said. “We thought it was a Bigfoot sighting.”
More calls came in, accompanied by photos from smart phones, and the department called for help from the Birmingham Humane Society.
Handler Drew Alexander came to the scene with a horse trailer. He and officers were able to hem the bird into a fenced area near the Magnolia Ridge Nursing Home on Dean Drive, where Alexander was able to get a bag resembling a pillow case over the emu’s head.
“It went completely docile then,” Lynch said. “Apparently that’s what [emus] do in that situation because they can’t see anything.”
The bird was taken to the Humane Society’s rescue barn in Mt. Olive, which is run by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Sloan.
Lynch said they have no idea where the bird came from, of to whom it might belong. “It’s got to belong to somebody, and we don’t think it’s that far away. But we don’t know,” Lynch said.
Emus are native to Australia, and have a cultural status there almost as important as kangaroos.
This emu caused no known damage or injury. “They have sharp claws and feet, so they can do some damage. But this one didn’t,” Lynch said.
Anyone with knowledge of who might own the emu should call the sheriff’s office, he added.
It’s the first time that anyone at the department knows of an encounter with such an exotic animal.
“We’ve chased horses before, and of course we have the wild boars,” Lynch said. “We used to have a peacock in town that stayed in the area around Village Green [shopping center]. He’d stay up in trees at night.”