Remember when: 2 years have passed since emu found in Bow

Monitor staff

Published: 09-22-2017 11:00 AM

In 2015, one of the Monitor’s best-read stories were of an emu found on the lam in the Bow woods.

After about a week from the intial sighting, the bird, Beatrice, was captured by Kevin Welch, Sam Seagroves and Joe Miller and brought to Wings of Dawn bird sanctuary in Henniker. Beatrice was there a few days before her owner, Kermit Blackwood, drove down from Vermont to bring her home – in a Prius.

Police seek wayward emu

Published Sept. 14, 2015

Bow Police Department officials are on the hunt for an elusive emu that’s been wandering around town, according to social media posts.

The big bird was first spotted about 10 a.m. Saturday morning and has since been seen in the area of Hunter Drive, Putney Road and Hampshire Hills, said Bow police Sgt. Art Merrigan.

“I think the person who originally called us probably wasn’t sure they were seeing what they thought they were seeing,” Merrigan said.

Merrigan said he remembers a similar incident years ago, in which an escaped large bird was on the loose for five or six days. Still, it’s not often you see an emu strolling through the town woods, he added.

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A Bow police officer recently took video of the bird walking around the woods, but was not equipped to try to capture the bird himself, Merrigan said.

“Apparently it’s fairly big, and I think he probably did the right thing by keeping his distance,” Merrigan said. “I’m not sure how they respond to people.”

He added the police department is working with local bird specialist Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Henniker to figure out how to capture the bird and transport it safely.

“We’re not equipped to capture emus,” Merrigan said of his department. He said no one has called the department looking for their bird.

If anyone sees the emu, Merrigan asks that they call the police department with the information and not try to approach the bird alone. Residents can call the Bow Police Department at 228-0511.

Wandering emu continues to evade capture

Published Sept. 15, 2015

Those who come across a large, flightless bird that can run up to 30 mph should have nothing to fear – as long as they stay at a safe distance.

Monday marked another day hot on the trail of a mysterious emu running around the woods in Bow, but the elusive suspect remained on the lam.

“The birds are very docile – generally speaking, they’re not going to attack anybody,” said DeeDee Mares, vice president of the New England Emu Association. Still, residents should not get any ideas about catching the birds themselves, she added.

“They’re not easy to catch,” she said. People shouldn’t try to tackle the emus, which will spook the birds and could result in kicking and scratching with sharp talons.

The birds are the second-largest in the world, after ostriches, and are indigenous to Australia. They can grow up to about 6 feet tall, weigh up to 140 pounds and can run at speeds of up to 30 mph, Mares said.

“The best way to catch them is to get a long rope with jingly, jangly metal things on the end,” Mares added. “They are so curious, they will follow that thing . . . you can lead them back.”

For the past few days, Bow police have been in pursuit of the emu, which has been spotted in residential areas of town including Hampshire Hills Drive and Page Road, according to officials.

Bird expert Maria Colby was called to Bow from her bird sanctuary in Henniker on Monday morning for another reported sighting, but by the time she arrived, the bird was gone again, she said.

“When he gets scared, he goes back” into the woods, she said. The bird is in a wooded area on the edge of several houses and is moving around the area. Police have seen it venture out a few times, but sounds like dogs’ barking have scared it away, Colby said.

“I imagine he can easily cover 5 miles, no problem,” Colby said.

Emus are often farmed for their meat and fat, which is rendered into oil. The animals do not have to be registered in New Hampshire, said Steve Crawford, the state veterinarian. The only state requirement for the birds is that if they are imported, owners must show they have been inspected by a veterinarian in their state of origin and do not have avian flu.

So far, no one has come forward to claim the animal. Bow police have been able to get fairly close to the bird, and Colby said that shows the emu is “probably accustomed to people, he is approachable.”

Still, Colby said she and police are urging residents not to try to capture the emu themselves, but to alert police if they see it.

She said one way residents can help is by opening their garage doors in hopes the emu might walk in and settle down there.

“They’re probably used to a cage,” she said, adding the method keeps the bird in an enclosed space until police can arrive.

This is not the first time an emu has been seen walking around the area. In 2007, two of the birds escaped from Dunbarton homeowner Richard Racca’s property and were loose for about a week, according to a Monitor article from that year.

One of the birds was eventually captured when a police officer from Hooksett grabbed its beak, a tactic used to get the animals to stand still, the article said. The officers then placated the animal by feeding it grapes.

Those two emus are still alive, living at Sunup Emu Farm in Barnstead, owner Donna Gagnon said.

Gagnon assisted in the 2007 retrieval effort, and she said the fact the birds were very tired at the end of their week in the New Hampshire wild made it easier to capture them.

“In my case, they were tired, already laying down,” she said.

Gagnon said she fears this bird is “probably freaking out because it’s in a strange environment.”

Anyone who spots the emu in Bow should contact police at 228-0511.

Bow emu caught

Published Sept. 21, 2017

An emu wandering around Bow has been caught, more than a week after it was first spotted.

Two neighbors – a father and son – captured the large, flightless bird in a residential area of Bow called Hampshire Hills on Sunday afternoon, said local bird specialist Maria Colby, who runs Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Sanctuary in Henniker.

Colby had been out looking for the bird throughout the week with some help from police and neighbors. She had been looking for the emu all morning and afternoon Sunday.

Though Colby and her helpers had spotted the bird and come close to catching it a few times, she finally had to step away to go to an appointment mid-afternoon. Just as a precaution, Colby left her net with the two neighbors.

“I was not even a couple minutes down the road when it was sighted in (their) backyard,” she said.

Using Colby’s handheld net, the father and son were able to capture the big bird by themselves. It took several people to pick the bird up and carry it to Colby’s car.

“It was a joint effort of the neighborhood,” she said.

Earlier in the day, the son had tried to catch the bird under Colby’s supervision, but the emu bit him and ran away.

Colby said the bird is male and about 5 feet tall. She said he appears to be healthy, save for a scratch on his face and a few missing feathers.

“He’s a pretty heavy bird,” she said.

The emu was first spotted by residents Sept. 11 and has been in the woods of Hampshire Hills, a residential neighborhood in town.

It’s not the first time the area has seen lost emus; two escaped from a Dunbarton farm in 2007 and were on the lam for about a week before they were captured. Those two are still alive, living at the Sunup Emu Farm in Barnstead.

Bow police did not return a call seeking more details about the bird before press time.

The bird is recuperating at Colby’s wildlife sanctuary, and she said she was relieved to see the search come to a happy end.

“I can sleep better tonight knowing he’s safe,” she said.

Safe and sound

Published Sept. 22, 2015

Sam Seagroves had his Sunday all planned out: go to church in the morning, enjoy some football in the afternoon.

Enter the Bow emu.

Seagroves instead found himself chasing after the large bird, trying to wrestle it to the ground, and eventually helping catch it in a huge net.

He sustained one emu bite on his arm, an imprint of a clawed foot on his stomach and a nasty bruise on his leg, but it was all worth it. Seagroves, father-in-law Kevin Welch and neighbor Joe Miller successfully captured the 5-foot-tall bird that had been on the loose in town for the past week and helped get it to safety. Miller was the one who ultimately netted the bird using one of Colby’s hand held nets.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Seagroves said, adding he was not at all prepared for the day’s activity.

“I usually wear flip-flops,” he laughed. “I went outside with two flip-flops on, not expecting to chase an emu around.”

Within 10 minutes, one of his flip-flops had come off, but Seagroves soldiered on. Under the advice of bird expert Maria Colby, who had been tracking the emu all week, Seagroves tried to grab the animal’s neck and subdue it.

His efforts were rewarded with a bite on the arm and a swift kick to the stomach, which knocked the wind out of him.

“It’s a beautiful bird, but it’s got really powerful legs,” Seagroves said.

Though he’s a little beat up, Seagroves said he is doing fine and not in much pain. Seagroves is more sore about his favorite shirt being ripped in the process, he said.

Ever since neighbors had alerted Bow police of the large bird wandering through their backyards, the emu became famous.

The big bird didn’t know that its time in the woods had captured the attention of the state, been broadcast on national news, inspired two parody Twitter accounts and had even received a shout-out from former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last week.

By Monday it was more relaxed, munching on dead caterpillars and pacing next to one side of its large enclosure at Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Sanctuary in Henniker. Colby, who owns the sanctuary and takes care of all the animals, said the bird’s behavior was most likely caused by stress from being caught and put into a new environment.

“She’s been in the wild, she hasn’t been confined, so she’s going to continue to pace until she realizes it’s okay,” Colby said, adding the emu wasn’t eating much of its feed and had lost a few feathers, also likely due to stress.

Still, she says the bird is inquisitive and “alert to everything going on in the environment.” The emu lets new people get fairly close to it, which could mean it’s no stranger to people and being in captivity.

Colby refers to the emu as female, but the bird’s gender hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Neither has its origin. No one has come forward to claim the bird, Bow Police Sgt. Art Merrigan said Monday afternoon.

“We have no idea,” he said. “I’m as baffled by it as everybody else.”

Bow police have checked with all the local farms in the area, and no one is missing any birds, Merrigan said.

Colby said she has received a call from a man in Vermont who believes the bird may be his. She’s waiting to see if that’s the case, but says she remains skeptical the bird could have traveled all the way from the neighboring state, especially since it stayed in the same area in Bow for more than a week.

The father-son duo responsible for catching the emu live in the Hampshire Hills neighborhood.

Colby and Merrigan are relieved the ordeal is over for both man and beast.

“We’re glad that this bird is at least safe and that it’s not going to get hurt or somebody’s going to get hurt by it being curious,” Merrigan said.

Emu, owner reunited

Published Sept. 28, 2015

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.”