Emu wanders onto I-79; officials forced to euthanize large bird in Crawford County

Brian Whipkey
Pennsylvania Outdoor Columnist

An emu, a smaller bird relative of the ostrich, wandered into a dangerous area of Interstate 79 in Crawford County on Monday.

The Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Game Commission were notified shortly before noon about the large bird just south of the Saegertown exit at the 152 mile marker north of Meadville.

Game Commission Information and Education Supervisor Jason Amory said Wednesday afternoon the approximately 80-pound bird was in the grassy area between the northbound and southbound lanes.

In February 2019, this emu was on the loose in Northern York County. It was eventually corralled and taken to a farm. A different emu was euthanized on Monday along Interstate 79 in Crawford County.

To protect the public’s safety around the highway traffic, the bird was euthanized with a firearm by a game warden. Later it was tested and found to be free of disease, said Armory, who added that his office had received calls from the public for a few days about the bird being on the loose, but no one could corral it.

The initial plan was to immobilize it with drugs and then transport it to safe location until they could find where it came from or give it to someone qualified to keep an exotic bird. He explained the agency has catch poles and other equipment to catch stray animals.

"It's just unfortunate," he said about it having to euthanize the emu. He added the wardens have training on euthanizing animals — such as those found injured along the highway — as humanely as possible.

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The commission is still looking for the owner. Amory speculates it might have gotten loose from a menagerie in eastern Ohio, or it could have been a pet for someone in the region.

Emus are flightless birds that originated in Australia. The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center reports an emu can grow to be about 6 feet tall and weigh up to 140 pounds. 

Amory said the public did the right thing.

If you're concerned about a wildlife issue, he said to always call your regional office of the Game Commission.

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Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA Today Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Outdoors Newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name.