An emu has been reported on the loose in the Ammon area, according to Ted Carter of the Bladen County Animal Control.
The flightless bird has been reported at least twice along Old Fayetteville Road, near a residence and a day care center.
"We'd like to find out who owns him," Carter said.
The large, gray-brown birds are natives of Australia. While they have only vestigial wings, they can run at high speeds. Emus are members of the ratite family, which includes ostriches, cassowary birds and kiwis.
According to SingingHillPa.com, a website operated by one of the largest American emu breeders, the birds are very adaptable to life in rural America. They eat insects, caterpillars, grain crops, fruits, flowers and grass.
Ranging from four to six feet tall or larger, and 90 to 150 pounds, the birds are the second largest birds in the world. Popular with zoos from the 1930's to 1950's, exotic animal farmers began importing and breeding the birds in the 1980's for meat, oil, and leather.
The birds mature for slaughter at three to five years, and can live to be 20. Individual breeding birds can run in the thousands of dollars, although rising feed prices have hurt profits for some emu farmers.
Emus are very curious, can run 30 to 40 miles per hours, and are excellent swimmers.
The birds can also be aggressive, Carter said.
"We want anyone who spots this thing to stay away from him," Carter said. "Emus can have a dangerous kick. If we find it, I promise you, we will approach it with caution."
Occasionally, farmers are injured by the large kicking birds. A Harnett County man attempting to capture a runaway emu in the 1980's was killed when the bird kicked him in the chest.
Carter said people who spot the big bird should call 911.
"We were contacted by the Wildlife Commissioner the other day," Carter said. "They'd had a call about it, but since it's a domestic animal, they contacted us."
Animal Control officers have had very limited experience with odd beasts such as ostrich and emu, Carter said.
"We'd sure like to make contact with someone that houses the things," he said.
Carter said he hoped the bird had returned home, or been captured by its owner.
"For all we know," he said, "it could have run off into Cumberland County by now."