OREM — Keep your bread crumbs to yourself. This is one bird you don't want to befriend.
On Friday, police agencies in Utah County searched for and eventually found an escaped cassowary — a large, flightless, feisty bird known to attack humans — that officials believe escaped when its fenced yard was damaged Thursday night.
Around 5 p.m. Thursday, a semitrailer driver hauling an empty flatbed apparently failed to notice that traffic had slowed near the University Parkway exit on southbound I-15. The driver slammed on his brakes but lost control and ended up driving down the west embankment and through a chain-link fence nearly 50 feet away from the freeway, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Ted Tingey said.
When the truck crashed through the fence, it rammed a few steel tanks and apparently injured the large cassowary bird that was in a fenced area on private farmland, Tingey said.
Officials pulled the severely wounded female bird from under the truck.
"This is a 200-pound bird," bird owner Richard Davis said. "This isn't a little bird. It's not like it's a little sparrow."
Officials were busy getting the tractor-trailer back onto the road and repairing the fence, and they didn't realize the bird had escaped until Davis called UHP around 9 p.m. Thursday to report it missing.
The bird was found at around 6:30 p.m. resting in a shed in the backyard of Carol Harper, a resident of Orem, who lives about 100 feet from Davis' farm. UHP officers picked up on a trail of blood left by the bird and tracked it to the shed. Carol said that the bird hasn't been a bother, adding she isn't concerned about its presence,
"We can see it lifting its head up," Harper said. "But we haven't gotten too close to it."
Harper and her husband, Mike, said they saw the bird on their property Thursday night but didn't think much of it because large animals are common and typically excuse themselves before becoming a nuisance.
After locating the bird, UHP troopers and Davis decided to set up a temporary pen around the shed until a veterinarian could examine the bird. The extent of the bird's injuries were unclear, but Davis wanted the bird to rest.
Davis was originally concerned that because the bird was injured, she could be more aggressive. He cautioned anyone who saw it to stay back and call 911 or their local police agency.
Cassowary birds are exotic and rare, and the two birds cost Davis thousands of dollars to purchase, plus travel expenses to get them.
The large birds are close relatives of emus and ostriches and have scaly legs and feet, wrinkled necks and clawed wings, which give them somewhat of a dinosaur-like appearance, according to National Geographic's Web site.
The birds, which normally live in the tropical forests in New Guinea and Australia, can grow up to 5 feet tall and weigh more than 100 pounds, according to National Geographic. They can also run as fast as 30 mph.
Although they normally eat fruit and small animals, the cassowary has been known to kill humans with slashing blows of its three-pronged claw feet, according to Britannica Online Encyclopedia.