The search for a 150-pound escapee shifted to an area of north Nanaimo on Thursday with a report of a strange growl in the Rutherford Road area.
Lucy, a 16-year-old emu, has been missing since Monday morning, when he escaped from an unsecured enclosure on owner Tim Genner's two-hectare Cassidy property. On Wednesday, students spotted him at Vancouver Island University, about 16 kilometres north and near the Colliery Dam park. The elusive emu's next moves are unknown.
Mr. Genner, a bird rescuer and emu expert, theorizes Lucy may have hunkered down Wednesday night along the wooded Jingle Pot Road area. Early Thursday morning, a caller reported hearing the very distinct sound that emus make.
"The sound they make is like a panther or a cougar growling," said Mr. Genner, who drove out to the scene to investigate. "People often think there's a cougar in their yard or something. It's a very, very low [growl]."
Lucy had still not been located as of print deadline on Thursday.
Mr. Genner said he and his wife both work as traumatic brain injury counsellors, but are also unofficial bird rescuers. Sixteen years ago, when a property dispute over a farm in Comox led to an owner threatening to kill some 350 emus, the Genners adopted five or six chicks.
The couple named one of the birds Lucy, only to discover about six years later it was in fact a male. "I'm not going to go into how we discovered that," Mr. Genner said with a chuckle, "but suffice it to say, we know now."
Lucy grew up in the couple's living room, "watching Seinfeld reruns" with another emu named Kramer, who died this year, Mr. Genner said.
About two years ago, Kramer escaped as well, only to be found peering through an elderly neighbour's window.
"It was about 10 o'clock at night and Kramer was looking through her window watching TV," Mr. Genner said. "This poor old lady, she just about had a heart attack."
While the Genners are worried about the safety and well-being of their long-time pet – the possibility of him being hit by a car is a serious concern – Mr. Genner said they won't have to worry about Lucy going hungry. At home, he primarily eats pellets intended for egg-laying hens, but in the wild, emus eat anything from plants and flowers to insects and small animals.
"I recently had to replace a flat tire on my car. They eat anything, literally, especially shiny stuff. So I'm taking off the lug nuts on my car, and put them down, go in and answer the phone, and she's eaten them all," said Mr. Genner, who still refers to his pet with a feminine pronoun. "I had to follow her around for three days to get my lug nuts back."
The runaway bird has a Twitter account, @LucytheEmu, which Mr. Genner appreciates – "the more people who become aware that she's out there, the better." – but swears he is not behind. One caller accused him of staging the entire missing-emu debacle as a way of gaining Internet fame.
"The thought that we're doing this for publicity – we have lives," he said. "We don't need to be doing this. I haven't slept in almost three days here. That sort of stuff comes up and I just shake my head."
Anyone who sees Lucy is asked to either keep him around with treats, or lure him to an area where he can be secured, and then call Nanaimo RCMP or Mr. Genner at 250-591-6131.
"Don't in any way physically try to wrangle her," Mr. Genner said. "She was declawed at birth … so she doesn't have any capacity of hurting people in that way, but her kick is very powerful."
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