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Runaway emu back at Valley home after Highway 99 stroll

California Highway Patrol officers and an officer from Madera County Animal Services gingerly work to capture an emu that was found wandering along Highway 99 north of Madera on Friday afternoon.
California Highway Patrol officers and an officer from Madera County Animal Services gingerly work to capture an emu that was found wandering along Highway 99 north of Madera on Friday afternoon.

A renegade emu captured Friday by California Highway Patrol officers north of Madera had apparently made a brief getaway from its owner, not far from where it was found.

Kirsten Gross, director of Madera County Animal Services, said the owner claimed the emu and took it home over the weekend.

Animal control officials took custody of the big bird after officers initially received calls about an ostrich running along Highway 99 near Avenue 17.

The hairy, flightless bird turned out to be an emu, not an ostrich. Officers found it shortly before 3 p.m. Friday wandering along the shoulder next to the freeway’s southbound lanes.

They slowly followed it down to the bottom of the Avenue 17 off-ramp, where they were able to use dog snares to detain it until Animal Services arrived.

“It’s lucky it didn’t get onto the highway and get hit,” Gross said.

Neither the CHP nor Animal Services initially knew whether the bird had escaped from a local owner or perhaps fallen out of a vehicle or trailer on the highway.

How the bird got away from its local owner remains a mystery. “Whether they left a gate open or what happened, we don’t know,” Gross said. “But he’s home now, safe and sound.”

It’s been several years since the county animal shelter had an emu in its custody. “It’s pretty rare, but not as rare as the three-foot alligator we had a few years ago,” Gross said.

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.
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