Runaway emu leads CHP on 30-minute highway pursuit


A fugitive emu led California Highway Patrol officers on a brief pursuit in Madera County before being taken into custody Friday.

The southbound runaway was apprehended after a 30-minute chase along California 99 and taken to the Madera County Animal Services for processing.

“No you weren’t watching a live action Liberty Mutual commercial,” CHP wrote on Facebook, referencing the “LiMu” emu featured in Liberty Mutual insurance advertisements. “This afternoon we were graced by the presence of an emu.”


The hairy, flightless bird — initially believed to be an ostrich — was spotted wandering on the right shoulder of the highway near Avenue 17 and was detained without injury using dog snares before animal services arrived, the CHP said. Public Information Officer Gregorio Rodriguez said it was roughly 100 degrees in Madera when the emu got loose and traffic was heavy.

“Everyone was looking. You don’t know what the animal is going to do,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

According to animal services, the emu’s owner picked up the bird Saturday, a day after its great escape. The department couldn’t say who owned the emu or how it got loose. It’s possible the bird wandered off from a nearby ranch or got loose from a vehicle, authorities said.

It’s not uncommon for exotic animals to escape their homes, Rodriguez said. Last year, a pot-bellied pig led officers on a chase through a muddy orchard.

Although the emu capture was a strange one for Madera’s animal services, it’s not the oddest. Roughly four years ago, animal control officers picked up an adult alligator in a cemetery. Alligators are illegal in California, so the running theory in the agency was that someone had purchased it as a baby, fed it and, when it got too large, set it free to roam alongside the dead before it put the owner in an early grave.

Emus are one of the largest birds in the world, second only to the ostrich. Native to Australia, they can reach a height of more than 6 feet and weigh as much as 120 pounds.


The San Diego Zoo describes them as birds with “tiny, useless wings” and “long and powerful” legs suitable for running in the wild — or, in this case, proving that life is a highway.