Packing 100 pounds on its 5-foot frame, the big bird gave police in this St. Louis suburb a mighty run, confounding them all six times someone reported the ostrich-like beast bugging motorists last weekend along busy Illinois Route 3.
Police finally caught up to the claw-footed menace Monday and ended the ruckus once and for all, cornering the emu, a cousin to the ostrich, and shooting it dead out of fear it'd again wander into traffic and kill someone.
Two days later, police on Wednesday still were pecking away at the vexing question: Where did the bird come from?
"We figured someone would call and say, `That's my bird!'" Police Chief Rich Miller said. "But we still haven't heard from anybody."
Raised for their eggs, oil and protein-rich lean meat, emus — at least the errant variety — have become a bit of a trend in southern Illinois, where they're not native.
In June, police in Carbondale, about 100 miles south of Granite City, needed five shotgun blasts and three rounds from a rifle to dispatch one of the flightless birds after cornering it in a residential area, where it was said to have even pecked on a home's window.
In both cases, police say they had no other recourse in dealing with a species known to be elusive — they're capable of moving up to 35 mph — and aggressive with anyone who gets too close.
"We figured that sooner or later our luck was gonna run out" and the emu here would cause a traffic wreck, Miller said. "If we had some way to catch it, somewhere to take it, that'd be fine. The ability for us to be second-guessed is always out there, but we decided (Monday) that now is the time to end this."
Carbondale police haven't said publicly if they ever tracked down an owner of the emu they killed, and messages with those authorities Wednesday weren't immediately returned.
Miller said Granite City police had heard rumors that someone near nearby Interstate 270 might be raising the birds, though that's not been confirmed. The American Emu Association's Web site shows no local breeders of emu, whose oil is used in cosmetics and lotions.
Clay Nielsen, a Southern Illinois University wildlife ecologist more versed about cougars and armadillos taking refuge in the state's wilds, said such wayward emus likely were former captives by breeders or families keeping them as pets.
"Throughout the Midwest and South, there have been many reports of animals on the loose," Nielsen said. "Whether they can survive long in the wild, I'm really not sure."
There have been other recent reports of errant emus elsewhere. On Oct. 5 near St. Albans, W.Va., one of the big birds wandered onto an elementary school's grounds, was caged and given to a doctor who agreed to release it on his farm. And in Wisconsin last week, an emu found wandering one town's streets was tranquilized by a veterinarian and returned to its owner after police efforts to halt the bird with a stun gun didn't work.
Meat from the emu slain here was being processed by a Granite City police officer who hunts and would be donated to local food pantries, Miller said.
So Emus are cropping up out of nowhere recently. I have yet to see one in my back yard, nor have I treated someone for an emu-induced accident, but it is only a matter of time. This ubiquitous bird seems to be getting as common as ants, covering the Midwest with a plague of large birds which cause poor innocent motorists to wreck.
I think Laundress should be alarmed, as now they are cropping up in Wisconsin as well! Do Emus like Cheese, Brats or Beer? They seem like the beer swilling type, these scoundrels!
I doubt they are part of the sinister plot of the dogs, monkeys, and cows. They don't seem to be cunning. I think Emus are basically loose-cannons, the vagabonds of the Midwest causing terror and pain wherever they tread.
This Emu is where it deserves to be: behind bars!