Orange County

Eno the emu dies during capture. ‘Everyone is devastated’ by bird’s death, official says

Eno the emu, the large flightless bird that evaded authorities for months, collapsed while being captured Thursday and died, officials said.

According to Orange County Animal Services, authorities worked with an avian veterinarian and two specialists from the N.C. Zoo to sedate the bird to transport it to a sanctuary.

But the sedatives didn’t work, and it died while being restrained.

“We did all we knew to do,” Animal Services Director Bob Marotto said in a news release. “We consulted with zoo experts to determine the best course. Unfortunately, she did not respond to our efforts.”

A group of officers and specialists arrived in the area of Rogers and Eubanks roads in northern Chapel Hill around 10 a.m. Thursday. They administered sedatives to the emu via grapes and bananas at 11 a.m., waited for the sedatives to kick in and eventually tried restraining the estimated 100-pound bird.

The emu collapsed and, despite group members administering CPR, it died, possibly of a stress-induced heart attack, officials said.

“Everyone is devastated,” Marotto said in the release.

Authorities had tried to capture the bird since the first sightings in June, worried it might endanger itself and others in a traffic accident or in the upcoming deer hunting season.

“We didn’t feel leaving it alone was a viable option,” Marotto said in the release.

The 5-foot tall emu had already caused some trouble on the road a month ago, jumping on the hood of a car near Hillsborough before running into the woods.

Animal Services officers closed in on the bird in mid-August, after leaving out buckets of food and water. They had even gotten as close as one person feeding it out of their hand.

No one reported missing an emu. Tenille Fox, Animal Services spokesperson, said they were hoping to take it to The Blind Spot Animal Sanctuary in Rougemont in northern Durham County.

“Of course we were hoping for a much better ending to this story, but we were always concerned that something like this could happen,” Fox wrote in an email. “So, we expended a massive amount of time and resources trying to avoid any harm that might come to this animal. Unfortunately, we were not successful.”

Past escaped emus

Emus have died during attempts to capture them before.

Two years ago in Gibsonville, a North Carolina town between Greensboro and Burlington, officers tried to capture a loose emu by grabbing it and tying a rope around its legs. The emu died in the struggle.

In late July, John Sauls, former director of Animal Control in both counties, sent The News & Observer a letter recalling three times his officers dealt with emus in Orange County from 1994 to 2005.

He described having to shoot one emu, tackle another and an almost disaster where 20 emus spilled out of a livestock trailer on Interstate 40 but were quickly fenced in and put back in the trailer. The I-40 event “just scared me to death,” he wrote.

Sauls said capturing any animal that can outrun you means that “you get lucky.”

Social-media celebrity

The emu that died Thursday quickly became a social media star after people heard about and started seeing it.

“Eno,” as someone named it, gained thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook, had a song written about it, was the highlight of a local ad campaign and even became a school’s lesson plans.

“This fun, local phenomenon of an emu on the run was a great opportunity to engage the natural curiosity of our kindergartners,” Expedition School teacher Trevia Woods said this summer.

Dozens of Eno fans have already gone to the Facebook page to pay tribute to the bird, posting pictures of roses.

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Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary and other odds and ends. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and is a Collegiate Network fellow.