AP NEWS

Zoo staff helps emu find his way home

January 10, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Zoo director Anthony Mason worked carefully as he came to the aid of Rudy, an emu, on Tuesday, after Rudy became stuck in a drainage ditch north of Scottsbluff.

The rescue came after Mason received a call about the bird. Nearby workers thought the emu had escaped from a nearby yard, but the owners weren’t at home. Mason received a call from employees with the Pathfinder Irrigation District, who were cleaning and performing maintenance on a ditch on Sugar Factory Road near Lake Minatare Road. They told Mason they found the emu in a ditch and he was injured.

“They said they could get it out of the ditch, but then it would be running around freely and could be taken by a predator or possibly be hit by a car,” Mason said.

When Mason, zoo veterinarian Cathy Eastman, head zookeeper Nancee Hutchinson and education curator Alex Henwood arrived on the scene, they assisted getting Rudy out of the drainage ditch.

Eastman looked the bird over and it appeared the loss of feathers on the emu’s neck were the same feathers lying in the ditch.

“The injury they had called about appears to be an older material,” Eastman said. “There’s a lot of area along the neck where it got scraped in the ditch and it has mild abrasions.”

While no one can be sure, it is likely the loss of feathers on the neck and the minor abrasions occurred when the emu slipped into the ditch.

Rudy’s neck injury occurred two days prior when Rudy climbed escaped from the property of owner Jason Knoles.

“It’s mating season, but I’m not sure where he was going to go,” Knoles said.

Knoles’ girlfriend encouraged him to notify law enforcement in case anyone had reported seeing a large bird in the area.

The crew informed Mason that the emu likely belonged to Knoles and attempted to contact him. When no one answered, a member of the ditch crew left a note on his door. Zoo staff decided to take Rudy back to the zoo to protect it until Knoles could be reached.

The emu is the second largest bird by height after the ostrich. The flightless bird can reach up to 6.2 feet in height. It can travel great distances and can sprint up to 31 miles per hour. Emus eat a variety of seeds, plants and insects, but can go for weeks without eating. While they do not need to drink often, they consume large amounts of water when the opportunity arises.

Knoles reached out to Mason and made arrangements to pick up Rudy on Wednesday morning. He was grateful for all the assistance and care that Rudy received.

“My girlfriend is more excited,” Knoles said. “She was worried someone might shoot him.”

Mason said he was happy to have been able to help this time. There are no plans to have emus at the zoo, but, this time, their staff was able to assist.

“Our goal was to find its rightful owner,” Mason said. “We can’t respond to every call for native wildlife and there are organizations that do that, but when something exotic comes up and we can deal with it, we will try to help out.”

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