It’s true: 5-foot tall birds roaming Truckee streets
If you saw a gray bird about five feet tall running around the Truckee area in the last month, don’t worry.
You probably didn’t imagine it.
After about a dozen sightings of emu – an ostrich-like bird – in Truckee, two emu were recently captured by officials from the Town of Truckee animal control department.
The most recent capture was Tuesday when an emu was caught near the California Highway Patrol truck scales.
Animal control officials caught another emu less than two weeks before, according to Dan Olsen, Town of Truckee animal control supervisor. About a month before the first emu capture on Oct. 9, 38-year-old Steve Ames saw an emu when he was jogging near his home in Tahoe Donner.
“Some people run with the wolves, I run with the ostrich,” he said, jokingly.
Ames, who owns Ames Deli Mart, said he was listening to music with his headset
on as he was jogging with his three dogs on Beacon Hill behind his house.
He said his dogs typically flush squirrels and small animals out of the brush and
woods when they run, but this time a five-foot gray bird appeared on the path less than five
yards in front of him.
“I think the dogs chased it out.”
He said, at first he wondered, “Am I seeing what I’m seeing?”
Then he was a little concerned for whatever it was because all three dogs were
going after it.
Soon, the bird turned on one of the dogs, Ames said, adding that the large bird was
pretty fast and aggressive and was right on the dog’s tail.
“I was laughing. I’d never seen anything like it.”
The bird chased the dog about one-half mile back to Ames’ home where the dog ran
inside the house and the emu hung around on the lawn until Ames got home.
It took three days for the dog to come out, Ames said.
Ames said he called the humane society and “they were kind of laughing at me.”
“I thought it was an ostrich. I’m from Tahoma. What do I know?”
He said when he told his employees, a few customers and the Pop Warner football
players he coaches, just about everyone thought he was crazy.
“Nobody believed me. I tried to keep it quiet after that.”
Several weeks later, the animal control department started receiving more calls of
“We got a lot of calls. We had sightings all day,” said Brenda Lee, Truckee animal
control office assistant, of the sighting reports Oct. 9, the day the first bird was captured.
“At least 10 people had called to report it. A lot of people thought it was an
ostrich,” Olsen said.
The emu was captured when the animal was reported to be in local veterinarian
Mike Ryan’s yard on Prosser Dam Road near Hwy. 89.
Animal control officer Martin Schneider responded, and Ryan and several other
people cornered the emu in a corral, Olsen said.
When Olsen arrived, they tied the emu’s legs, put a blanket over its head, picked
it up, and put it in the back of an animal control truck, Olsen said, adding that once the
bird was in the truck, it was fine.
Olsen said the bird was delivered to Ray Shady, who said the bird does not belong
to him. The bird was subsequently taken to a veterinarian for care.
The bird that was captured on Tuesday did belong to Shady.
Shady raises emus, and has about a dozen of the large birds, which he raises as
livestock for their meat and oil.
“They’re the dumbest animals you ever saw in your life,” he said of emus, which he
also described as fast and hardy.
“I had more (emus) until coyotes ate a whole bunch of them.”
Emus are not dangerous unless someone who is not familiar with emus approaches
them, according to Olsen, who said the birds will kick.
Olsen’s primary concern was an emu running onto the highway, being run over and
causing an accident, he said.
Surprisingly, the emu chases were not too extraordinary for local animal control
officials. Olsen said prior to the more recent incidents, he has chased a younger emu,
llamas and ostriches.
Shady said he is getting out of the emu business because the market has taken a
turn for the worse.
He said it once cost thousands of dollars for a pair of emu, and now chicks cost
Shady plans to take his small herd of emu to Oregon for processing in the next
month or two, he said.
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