Owner finds emu after year on the lam

Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2005

MOXEE, Wash. (AP) — Emma the pet emu is home again after nearly a year on the lam, and owner Diana Parker could hardly be happier.

"I thought for sure she was gone," Parker said. "She would've been a lovely Sunday roast for somebody."

Quite a dinner it would have been. Emma's exact weight and height were unknown, but emus — smaller relatives of ostriches and natives of Australia — are typically 5 1/2 feet tall and about 100 pounds.

Parker, 60, said her pet vanished while she was away in March, about six months after she got the 3-year-old bird. She immediately alerted the Human Society, Yakima County sheriff's office, property owners and workers in hop fields near her 2.2-acre place east of Yakima.

"The word was out," she said. "I told everybody, 'Look for my emu.'"

After a week of fruitless searching, she gave up. To console her, a friend gave Parker two 3-week-old emus to raise, Eddie and Baby.

Nearly a year later, a boy who lives nearby said he'd seen Emma on his way home from school. When Parker got to the place the boy mentioned just off Washington 24, Emma was gone, but a friend, Jerry Heidt, a truck driver out for a walk with his 7-year-old granddaughter, saw the bird about a quarter-mile from her house.

"I spotted the bird and the bird spotted us, and when we started walking it followed us back," Heidt said.

Parker feared Emma would flee — the flightless birds can run as fast as 30 mph — but Emma was soon back in the fenced yard after being corralled by Parker's husband, Richard, and son, Doug.

"It just floors me," Heidt said. "I mean, where was it all this time? Where'd it stay all winter?"

Parker has a couple of theories.

"Maybe she just hung out in that field for a year, but why wouldn't somebody have found her when they did harvest? I think somebody was feeding her," she said. "Maybe someone will come forward and answer the mystery: Where has Emma been?"

Emma is keeping her distance from the two younger birds, but Parker hopes that will change.

"Hopefully, she'll bond with the other ones and we'll have more emus," she said.

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