TOWNSEND, Del. – School officials locked down two Delaware elementary schools this week after an escaped emu that has eluded authorities for months was spotted roaming nearby.

“You weren’t allowed to go play in school because a giant emu was running around in your playground and it was being chased by police?” Spring Meadow Early Childhood Center grandparent Drew Hurst questioned after his grandson told him about a school lockdown Monday.

“He said ‘Uh huh.’”

NBC 10 reports school officials at Spring Meadow and Old State Elementary School implemented a “soft lockdown” – essentially keeping students inside while classes resume – as police and a local petting zoo manager scrambled to catch the large bird that escaped months ago from a private owner who has yet to claim it.

The schools sent letters to parents about the incident, and issued a warning about what to do if they come into contact with the feathered fugitive.

Delaware emu“I am getting frustrated,” said Dan Stonebraker, manager of 3 Palms Petting Zoo who’s helping police capture the animal. “Yesterday we were out there for a few hours and we got closer than ever. We had our hands on it, physically, twice.”

Stonebraker said emus are generally safe to be around, but they do have sharp talons and they’re not afraid to use them if they’re cornered. Authorities want to avoid using a tranquilizer if possible, he said, but they’re concerned the bird could wander into traffic.

The bird has been on the loose for several months and Stonebraker said it could survive in the wild through Delaware’s winter.

The blog Exceptional Delaware attempted to make light of the situation, and tie it to the ongoing debate over standardized testing and the movement among some parents opt their children out of the exams.

“I had a rare chance to talk to the emu, and it told me it resented being in captivity,” according to the blog. “It has been actively seeking Delaware students because the emu feels they are in the same boat.”

“I opted out of being tied to one place. Like the students in Delaware who are tied to one test, I sought freedom from an oppressive regime,” the emu allegedly said. “In essence, I opted out and I think all kids in Delaware should as well. I tried to talk to my previous owner about honoring my rights, but he vetoed my suggestion. I am seeking to have my friends overturn that decision.”

“When I asked the emu to please consider not causing any more problems,” the blog read, “it simply ran away again shouting ‘Opt Out Now!’”

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