4 agencies have ‘emusing’ story about bird on highway

We’re at liberty to tell you loose emu captured

There must have been more drama than we thought on the set of one of Liberty Mutual Insurance’s most-recent commercials when the company brought back a certain bumbling actor and his botched yet hilarious line of “Liberty Biberty.”

It was easy to see Doug’s feathers had been ruffled, but his truly feathery counterpart and head “spokesbird” LiMu Emu protested the actor’s return by taking to the streets…in Olalla?

OK, not really, but overnight commuters still got a healthy reminder to drive insured as multiple agencies responded to a call for an emu running loose off Highway 16 at the Burley/Olalla exit at 3 a.m. Jan. 27.

Personnel from Animal Control, the State Patrol, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and state Department of Transportation were all brought in to assist in the elusive bird’s capture. For Animal Control’s Jen Dunlap, it was her second emu call in a decade.

“And this time, I actually got it!” she boasted.

Her first encounter had not ended in a successful capture, but despite the rarity of the situation, she had researched to better prepare herself for such an encounter. That research paid off as she worked with the other agencies to prevent the bird from running off or causing harm to drivers and itself in the dark hours of the morning.

“It’s firstly public safety and animal safety,” she said. “The main thing was staying behind the bird, away from the feet, and getting its head and eyes covered so I could maneuver it from there. It was young, which I lucked out on. Had it been older, I’m not sure I would have been successful.”

Later that morning, the Kitsap Humane Society reported that “Elliot” was safely housed at its Big Animal Barn. The bird was immediately the talk of the town, residents relishing the irony of the reckless night on the road and so many jokes about what coverage it must have paid for, though surely it only paid for what it needed.

It was the same sort of talk at the barn, where Dunlap said she got the chance to learn even more about the emu and spend time with what she called a sweet, little bird. “I got to get a little more handling in, and it was so sweet. He’ll lean into you, he cuddles his head on to you,” she said.

KHS is coming off a successful year having helped 4,282 animals find homes via adoption in 2023 and fostering another 1,048. Unfortunately, no owner came forward to claim this bird, but Elliot was transported to a separate rescue a few days later.

It’s another checkmark in the list of odd animal encounters. KHS director of communications Mike Bush has heard his fair share of the unusual, including a runaway good-sized pig given the name “Tinsel” after it had been spotted eating Christmas decorations.

“You got to go get donuts first for that one is what our guys told me,” he said. “It turns out pigs really like them. They showed him a donut, and (the pig) climbed right in the back of the horse trailer.”

Dunlap added: “A couple years back, we got a northern galago bush baby. It was a pet and was pretty social, which made it pretty easy.”

Above all, no matter how odd the situation, the emu capture proved to be yet another example of the work those at KHS and Animal Control do to protect everybody and every animal. “From emus running down the freeway to puppies stuck in a pipe, they’ve done it all,” Bush said.