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Fugitive emu in Delaware prompts school lockdowns

An emu has been eluding capture for 66 days in Delaware, prompting two elementary school lockdowns. How do you catch an emu? 

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An Emu stands on a farm field in Odessa, Del., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. It has been on the run for the past 66 days and prompted a "soft" lockdown at two Odessa-Townsend area elementary schools Monday. The emu has wandered into traffic and has outrun state police, state wildlife officials and an exotic animal expert.

(Jason Minto/The Wilmington News-Journal via AP)

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An errant emu in Delaware, on the run for the past 66 days, has prompted lockdowns at two elementary schools and sparked road safety concerns as it continues to evade wildlife officials.

The bird was spotted Monday near two elementary schools in the Odessa-Townsend area, leading to a "soft lockdown" at both schools. Students remained inside and continued their normal activities, school officials said in a letter to parents.

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Local residents appear to be losing their patience with the emu. Authorities have received a growing number of calls from people who have spotted the bird or come close to hitting it over the last week.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture, which oversees exotic animals in the state, has asked wildlife officials and state police to shoot the emu if public safety is at risk.

The emu is the second largest bird in the world by height (after the ostrich) and are native to Australia. Emus are flightless birds that can travel great distances, and can sprint at speeds reaching 30 mph.

Daniel Shortridge, a spokesman for the department, said no one is sure who owns the bird. 

"We're continuing to work with other agencies doing our collective best to catch it," he told The News Journal in Wilmington, adding that shooting the bird isn’t the preferred solution.

Dan Stonebraker, who owns a petting zoo in Clayton, Delaware, told the News Journal that he plans to try to capture the emu with nets on Thursday. He said he almost caught it earlier this week but that it broke free at the last minute.

“It's a sight to behold," Mr. Stonebraker said of the flightless bird, which stands about six feet tall. While it can kick, he said the emu wasn’t a public threat. “We've been trying to get it safely and humanely,” he added.

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Perhaps Stonebraker could use some advice from the father and son team that captured another runaway emu in New Hampshire earlier this year. With the help of Maria Colby, a local bird specialist, the father and son used a handheld net to catch it.

Or he could watch this YouTube video of a flock of emus being entirely transfixed and drawn to a man laying on his back and cycling his legs in midair. Whatever it takes.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.