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'Flock of feather dusters': Drought blamed for emu invasion in Peterborough

By Daniel Keane, staff, Thursday May 24, 2018 - 13:25 EST
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Emus have passed through Peterborough in large numbers in recent weeks. - ABC

It sounds like something out of an outback movie — mobs of emus wandering the streets of a small town, arousing the suspicions of locals.

But for Peterborough residents in South Australia's mid north, the big birds have become a regular part of local life in the past few weeks.

It's believed drought has forced the emus to become bolder, often walking up and down streets, eating grass and even flowers from the cemetery.

Locals have reported them in packs on the fringes of town as well as in smaller groups of about half a dozen passing through.

"One day there was nothing and next day they were all here. You walked outside and there's emus everywhere," said local photographer Irene Limburg.

"Just across the road from one of my friend's paddocks, they were in the hundreds. It was just like a flock of feather dusters running across the road."

Peterborough was established in the 1880s as a railway town, and the emus have been spotted walking up and down the line.

"They're following the railway line peering over people's fences. By nature they're curious," Mayor Ruth Whittle said.

Council officers were called in earlier this week to move them away from a school oval, where dozens had gathered.

"If they find a lawn or a tasty garden they come in and have a little feed," Ms Whittle said.

"They're out eating any grain that's [been planted], any little bits of grass that are still around because we're in the middle of a drought."

The mayor has never seen anything like it

Ms Whittle said she has never seen anything like it before, but the council is warning locals and tourists to keep away from the creatures.

"People think that they can approach them, but they're a wild bird, we have to warn people to stay away because they'll protect their chicks or they'll protect one another," she said.

"They can be quite vicious.

"I've seen them out and around over the years, but not this bad, no, and not for them to be so game as to come right into the town."

Ms Whittle said the council had contacted resource management authorities about the situation.

"They've told us to keep everybody away from them, not to antagonise them, not to try and pen them," she said.

The emus are believed to be making their way south. Ms Limburg, who was born and bred in the area, said that she too had never seen emus pass through in such large numbers before.

She said the dominant feeling within the local community was not intimidation, but amusement at the spectacle.

"I don't think anyone's been upset by them. They're just amazed," she said.

"We're all having a bit of a giggle and thinking they'll move on in their own time. We've had kangaroos down the main street, an emu is not going to hurt.

"They're our coat of arms, we have to look after them."


© ABC 2018

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