Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What to do with a stray emu?

First, know it could kill you with its claws.

An emu found wandering in Walnutport, Northampton County, on May 7, 2013.
An emu found wandering in Walnutport, Northampton County, on May 7, 2013.
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After ordering wings from a pizza place Tuesday evening, Robert Leseberg looked out his window and saw a huge bird.

“Oh my god, look how big that turkey is” was his first thought, said Leseberg, who lives on two acres in rural Walnutport, about 15 miles north of Allentown.

But this not-so-wild "turkey," when stretched fully upright, could raise its big beak above the head of the 6-foot-3 online investor, who soon figured out he was dealing with an emu.

He left it alone until, on his way back with the wings, the bird was blocking his driveway.

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  • Leseberg realized the critter was so dumb about roads and cars, it might not last the night.

    He called police, hoping they'd be able to find the rightful owner, perhaps an emu farm. Or maybe it belonged to one of the horse farms nearby.

    A neighbor helped him corner the bird, get a rope around its neck, and drop a burlap bag over its head. They hoping to move the bird into a pen at another neighbor's unused kennel.

    The creature, which could make "pretty spooky" sounds -- "like a drumming cluck that comes out of its chest," Leseberg said -- seemed so disturbed by the bag they removed it.

    It cooperated for a while but then collapsed, lying on its back and waving its feet in the air.

    Leseburg feared the bird was dying from all the stress.

    Maybe he should have feared the claws more, since they're sharp enough to inflict fatal wounds, he later learned.

    He petted it. It calmed down and even let him carry it to the kennel.

    "This thing has to have been around people,” Leseberg said. It even ate grapes right out of his hand.

    Too friendly to have been raised by a farmer for food, he speculated. Perhaps an abandoned pet.

    "I just hope somebody wasn’t ignorant enough to dump this thing off," he said.

    Leseberg made a few dozen phone calls in his quest to find the owners without success, and an animal control officer placed it with an emu farm near Easton, which promised to return it to its rightful home -- if that could be determined.

    But as of Thursday evening, nobody had claimed the bird, Leseberg said.

    Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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