An ostrich-sized South American rhea that’s reportedly capable of “seriously injuring humans” escaped from a farm in Hertfordshire, U.K., last month and has been on the lam in the English countryside ever since.
The Telegraph describes the flightless bird, which sports heavily muscled legs, hard spurs and a nasty kick, as “standing six foot tall and capable of running at speeds of 40mph.” The Daily Mail says the bird is “capable of disemboweling a human.”
(There are two types of rhea, by the way, the common rhea, also known as the greater rhea and the lesser rhea, or Darwin’s rhea. It’s not entirely clear which type we’re dealing with here.)
The Mail quotes the bird’s owner, Jo Clarke, as saying she “keeps four rheas on her land at Brent Pelham as they are good at eating weeds.”
“The bird escaped after being spooked by the local hunt,” she tells the newspaper.
Di Pyper, master of the Puckeridge Hunt, which has its hunt kennels at Brent Pelham, tells the Mail that members of the hunt had seen the rhea trotting away when they hunted a trail through a field near the bird’s home.
“We weren’t very near it and the hounds didn’t go anywhere near it but some people told me they’d seen what they thought was an ostrich trotting through a field,” she said.
Then last week, the bird startled a cyclist about 20 miles away in Nuthampstead. Ray Murdoch, a 66-year-old retired teacher, says he was riding his bicycle when he saw the rhea in a roadside field.
“I was completely godbsmacked, it’s not something you see every day, it’s very very weird,” Murdoch told the Hertfordshire Mercury.
“At first I thought it might be a crane but as I got close I realised it was actually rather large to be a crane,” he said. “It just kept looking at me and then as I got closer to it, it walked off further into the field.”
The Mercury says that since the animal was not actually on the road, it wasn’t considered a danger to the public. Police have referred the matter to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The RSPCA apparently has its hands full, and owner Clarke says she has no idea how to recapture a bird that sprints at 40 mph. A spokeswoman for the human society urged anyone who spots the bird to get in contact with them.
One idea might be to enlist the help of two officers who caught a rhea last month in a garden in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, and returned it to its owner at Tattershall Farm Park, where it was being kept as a family pet, according to the BBC.
Officer Tom Harrison and his partner, Gary Young, described finding that rhea as a “surreal” moment.
“[It] wasn’t best pleased to see us and was even less happy to go into the car,” Young said. “I’ve wrestled many times in the back of a police car but it’s the first time it has been with an animal.”