An emu led California Highway Patrol officers in Madera on a brief pursuit along Highway 99 on Friday afternoon, but they managed to catch the big bird without injury.
CHP spokesman Gregorio Rodriguez said officers received a call shortly before 3 p.m. about the hairy, flightless bird – originally described as an ostrich – as it wandered along the right-hand shoulder of the freeway’s southbound lanes near Avenue 17. When officers arrived, they realized that whoever made the call was, in fact, not hallucinating.
“Yeah, it really was an emu,” Rodriguez said. Fortunately, the 4- to 5-foot-tall bird did not dart into traffic, “but he kept it on the shoulder the whole way until we got to the bottom of the off-ramp.”
A pair of CHP officers used dog snares “to detain the emu” until an officer from Madera County Animal Services arrived to take the bird into custody. Officers don’t know whether the emu may have escaped from a farm in the area or gotten out of a vehicle that was traveling on the highway.
“I’m pretty sure (Animal Services) will try to find the owner or wait for someone to claim it,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez managed to have a little fun with the incident on the Madera CHP office’s Facebook page as well. “No you weren’t watching a live action Liberty Mutual commercial,” he wrote, referring to television ads featuring an insurance-selling emu and his human partner. “This afternoon we were graced by the presence of an emu” on the southbound lanes of the freeway.
Emus are native to Australia and are the second-largest birds in the world behind their zoological kin, the ostrich. Emus can reach a height of about 6 feet tall and weigh as much as 120 pounds, according to information from the San Diego Zoo. While their wings are useless for flight, their powerful legs can allow them to sprint at up to 30 mph and trot quickly for longer distances.