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Why did the emu cross Route 31? It was scared by a falling tree

| Saturday, July 9, 2011

An emu who stopped to munch on flowers at a Bear Rocks home was lassoed Friday, ending its 24-hour "flight" to freedom.

The emu, named Simon, lives on Sue and Ed Johnson's 10-acre farm in Bullskin, the site of the former Animal Angels animal shelter on Three Mile Hill.

The bird escaped his fenced pen as a company was cutting down a tree near Simon and two other emus. The big birds were startled, and Simon dislodged the top rail of the wooden fence.

"When the tree fell down, it frightened him and he managed to knock down the top rail, and over he went," Sue Johnson said.

Her husband managed to calm the other two birds, Sylvia and Sebastian, but didn't notice that Simon had gotten free.

The emu walked down their driveway and headed west on Route 31.

Employees at Speedy Meedy's gas station near the intersection of routes 982 and 31 watched the emu prance past after customers came in and mentioned it.

"Sure enough, it was an emu going down the road," said Michele Richter of Leisenring. "By the time I saw it, it was more or less on the side of the road."

Deric Norgren was outside watering flowers at about 3 p.m. at Nino's Restaurant in Bullskin when he noticed something stopping traffic. The emu sauntered toward the restaurant, said Norgren, a bartender from Bear Rocks.

"The bird just walked into our parking lot," he said. "It seemed very calm and domesticated."

A passer-by stopped to help.

"We were just trying to keep it out of the road. It was pretty dangerous, since it was the size of a deer," Norgren said.

Norgren went into the restaurant to get a loaf of bread to lure the animal away from traffic. When he returned, the emu had taken off, so Norgren chased after it.

"(The passer-by) and I had the bird pretty well calmed down, but it just got free," he said.

Another car approached and startled the emu, who knocked Norgren to the pavement and escaped down Route 982. Norgren saw Simon hop over the guide rail and into the woods.

"I was no match for the bird," he said. "When I gave up and went back to the restaurant, it was just trotting on 982 toward Connellsville."

Sue Johnson said she, her husband and Bullskin fire department volunteers searched for the bird Thursday night with no success.

Yesterday afternoon, a Bear Rocks man discovered the emu eating his flowers and called 911.

When Ed Johnson picked up Simon from the home, about a mile and a half away, the bird seemed ready to go home.

"He jumped in the van and sat in the front seat," Sue Johnson said. "I'm ecstatic, I can't wait to get home and give him a hug."

Fellow emu Sylvia seemed glad to have Simon back at the farm, she said.

"It was pathetic to just watch her stand there and look out of the corral," she said.

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