Steve Pisturino tries to capture a lost emu wandering down Chinle Road in Golden Valley, Arizona.
Our great EMU adventure began when the neighbor’s dogs started barking at something in the field across the road. We figured it was the coyote that comes to drink water in our front yard. Boy, were we wrong!
Racing through the desert was a prehistoric-looking creature with long legs and a long neck that looked tired, hungry, and thirsty. I don’t know how long or how far he had run, but the temperature was at least 110 degrees outside, the noontime sun burned with fierce intensity, and the only water available came from human sources.
My husband grabbed some water and followed the animal in his truck while I got on the phone and called every agency I could find in the phone book. The standard response? “We don’t handle emus.” It didn’t matter that the creature was going to die without food, water, and shelter. Frustrated, I called the local newspaper and reported what was happening. Happily, one of the reporters also got on the phone and began calling people.
I finally got hold of a local animal rescue sanctuary, and the owners told me that if we could corral the emu, they would come and get him! Finally! Results!
By that time, my husband had returned home. He had offered him water, but Big Bird ignored it and ran off — luckily, into a residential neighborhood. We took off in the truck and scoured the neighborhood, hoping to find him, capture him, and send him off to the animal sanctuary. We finally found him wandering down a dirt road, tired and worn out.
As you can see in the above photo, my husband tried to befriend him and lasso him with a soft nylon rope. But the animal wasn’t going for it and took off again into the desert. I ran after him, trying to herd him back to the road. Once or twice, I got close enough to touch him. He never tried to bite or kick me and seemed friendly enough. He was obviously accustomed to humans. But he was scared and didn’t know his way home.
I chased him to the edge of a wash. Big Bird realized that the sides of the wash were too steep, and he let me herd him along the edge and back to the road. Several times he looked back at me with a glint in his eye, like it was some sort of game, and I had high hopes that eventually he would stop and let me catch him. That was an idealistic thought!
Back on the road a man in a red truck offered the bird water, but once again he ignored it and headed on down the road. My husband parked his truck and threw me the rope. Finally, I got close enough to the bird to throw my arms around him and hang on for dear life. I managed to loop the rope around his neck, but I was so scared of hurting him, I let it hang loose.
My husband asked me, “Okay, now we’ve got him, what are we going to do with him?” Good question! The man in the red truck had taken off, and we had nobody to help us. We decided to walk Big Bird back to the truck and somehow get him into the back.
When we got back to the truck I told my husband, “You get behind him and push.” He reluctantly grabbed the back end of the bird and tried to push him up into the truck.
Big Bird bolted, gouged my left ankle with his huge toenail, knocked me flat on my back, and ran off into the desert!
Hot, tired, and thirsty, I laid in the dirt with the sun in my eyes and waited for the stars to stop swirling around my head.
As my husband helped me up I said, “I’m done. I can’t do anymore.” Beaten, bruised, scuffed, cut, dirty, sweaty, and stunned, we drove home in defeat.
To this day, we don’t know where the emu came from or where he ended up. We suspect that somebody who didn’t want him anymore let him loose in the desert. A cruel thing to do in the hot summer! At the very best, somebody found him and gave him a home. At the very worst, coyotes attacked and killed him. Even as I chased him through the desert, vultures circled overhead, waiting for a fresh kill.
Was it worth it? Even though he injured me, and we weren’t able to catch him, I feel happy that we at least tried to help this poor creature. I have the satisfaction of knowing that the newspaper reporter tried to track down the owner.
And I have a great story to tell my future grandkids.
Copyright 2012 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.