By ANNIE MEHL
For The Jefferson Herald
Jonathan Law was on his way to a meeting in Jefferson when he spotted what he thought looked like a deer on the side of the road.
After his truck moved closer to the animal, he realized it wasn’t a deer at all.
The creature walked on two legs, pecked its beak at the soybeans in the field and looked as if it could fly.
It definitely wasn’t a deer.
As he parked on the side of the road to take a look, he realized this animal was a bird, but not just any bird — an emu.
“It’s pretty big,” Law said. “I don’t really know a lot about emus, but I would guess (it was) 80 to 100 pounds.”
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office in recent weeks has reported sightings of an emu running loose — at Y Avenue near 210th Street on Oct. 4, and then again at M Avenue near U.S. Highway 30 on Oct. 8.
The emu is thought to have wandered over from Boone County to Greene County moving at about 5 miles a day, said Greene County Sheriff Jack Williams.
But since the emu was first spotted, no one has been able to catch it.
“You can get within about 10 feet of it and then it takes off,” Williams said.
Law was on his way to a meeting in Jefferson the morning of Oct. 9 when he spotted the giant bird, he said.
“I actually heard about it last Tuesday night at the council meeting, and the sheriff mentioned it was heading towards where my farm was,” he said. “The next morning, I saw it.”
But after he pulled over and snapped a few photos on his phone, Law didn’t know what to do. He called the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and left.
Since Law’s sighting, the bird has not been seen again, Williams said.
Williams added that if the bird is spotted again, he is unsure if the sheriff’s office will shoot it or how it will be captured.
“We haven’t gotten close enough yet to even think that far,” he said.
Emus, which are a flightless bird indigenous to Australia, can run about 30 miles an hour. They eat a lot of grains, fruits, small animals and insects, according to National Geographic.
Although the giant bird now is a national symbol in Australia, it was once considered a bird of prey.
Following World War I, soldiers returned home from war without jobs but soon were able to find work in wheat fields. They only had one problem: The emus were eating it all.
In order to take back their land, farmers herded together to take down the emus.
“Armed with machine guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition, a small group of soldiers descended on the emus,” National Geographic states. “It did not go well.”
In the end, the emus proved to be both smarter and quicker than the soldiers anticipated, and they handily won Australia’s Great Emu War of 1932.
Although the stray emu in Greene County is not wreaking the same havoc on local soybean fields as the birds in 1932 did, Mike Martin, who raised more than 100 emus on his farm in Louisburg, Kan., offered a similar solution.
Shoot it, he said
“An emu on the loose, they weigh about 100 pounds, there could be a lot of damage to a vehicle if they get on the highway,” he said. “They run about 40 miles an hour. There’s a technique to catching them, but it takes two people. They are not aggressive. They are curious.”
When one of his emus escaped and they were unable to catch it, they had to put it down, Martin said.
That’s what he recommends someone in Greene County does.
Martin, who now is retired from raising emus, said emus are a popular farm animal in the U.S. not because they protect flocks of sheep like llamas, but simply because they taste good.
“It’s very similar to beef,” he said. “It’s lowest-fat meat sold in the United States. It’s very healthy. We served it to people that didn’t even know they were eating emu.
“They thought they were eating beef.”