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Emu found in Bow released to farm in Vermont

Last modified: 9/29/2015 12:23:36 AM
Maria Colby wasn’t quite sure what to think when she got a call from someone in Vermont who thought maybe – just maybe – the emu that had been meandering through Bow in recent weeks escaped from his farm.

“Birds recognize individuals,” Colby said Sunday morning, waiting for the prospective owner to arrive at Wings of the Dawn, the Henniker-based nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center where the bird had been residing since it was caught last Sunday. “So we’ll see how he reacts.”

Likewise, Kermit Blackwood – the curator of Taft Hill Farm in Townshend, Vt., and the one who reached out to Colby – figured it was a longshot that this bird was his Beatrice, who had gone missing more than a month ago. The trek from the farm to Bow would have likely meant crossing the Connecticut River in addition to some 80 or more miles of terrain.

But Blackwood figured he would look into it. So, accompanied by Daniel Lipschutz, who also works on the farm, he drove down to Henniker to take a closer look.

After introductions and a few minutes of conversation, Colby led the pair into the barn where the emu had taken up temporary residence. Blackwood, for his part, had arrived at the wildlife center purposefully sporting a jacket lined with shimmering silver fabric.

“It’s something I wear when I go out to milk the cows,” he said, and the emu might therefore recognize it. “I turned it inside-out. I didn’t want to freak out poor Maria.”

In the barn, Blackwood approached the bird, slowly – and, after a few moments, the emu moved closer, too. A few moments later, the bird rolled its neck toward Blackwood, the same way he told Colby it might.

“That’s her,” Colby said. “I see it.” The bird hadn’t greeted her that way at any point during the last week, she said.

Taft Hill Farm, Blackwood said, has been tending to emus – and horses and cows and other animals – for years. The birds’ eggs are used in dishes at a local country store, he said, and their feathers are used for fly-tying and crafts.

Until about a month ago, Blackwood said, the farm had six emus in its current flock. Then, a few went missing. One was eaten, likely by a coywolf. Another was found in a neighboring town. He assumed the remaining bird was also gone for good.

When a strange, unaccounted-for bird started making headlines after it showed up in Bow, a few people back in Vermont reached out to Blackwood to suggest that this emu might belong back with the rest at Taft Hill.

“She absolutely recognized me,” Blackwood said, after meeting the bird in Henniker. “And I recognized her.”

No one seems to be sure exactly how the bird would have managed to trek from Townshend to Bow. Getting her back to Townshend, however, was not going to be an easy task. The pair who came to retrieve the emu drove to New Hampshire in a Toyota Prius. Blackwood was confident that the emu, once wrangled, could be transported safely if they could wrap her up in a blanket and place her in the trunk, with the back seats folded down for extra space.

First, the two men from Vermont – assisted by Colby and her husband, Wayne – guided the bird into the corner of the barn closest to the exit. There, Blackwood approached the emu and, eventually, wrapped his arms around the animal, pressing his head against hers and attempting to console her. From there, Lipschutz approached with a sock to slide over the bird’s head. With Blackwood holding the bird’s torso, Lipschutz worked on wrapping a rope around her ankles and, later, wrapped a red blanket around the rest of her body – with the goal of making it easier to carry her to the car.

The task, in total, ended up taking 20 minutes – during which time the bird, flustered by the process, tried several times to break away – but the group eventually managed to get the emu into the back of the car.

Reached by phone at about 5 p.m., Blackwood said the bird had made it back to Taft Hill Farm and had since reunited with the rest of her flock.

The drive took about an hour and a half, according to Blackwood, and was mostly smooth – with one brief “moment of stress.” The bird calmed down, he recalled, once they removed the sock from her head.

Otherwise, Blackwood said, “Everything is well. Beatrice is home.”

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or cmcdermott@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)


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