An injured emu that wandered into a Plant City backyard early Tuesday morning is recovering at Busch Gardens Animal Care Center.
The large bird, which is native to Australia, is in bad shape after it was attacked by a couple of dogs.
The emu has been quarantined and we're told if anyone can save him, it's the skilled vets at the Busch Gardens Animal Care Center. They don't have it easy, though.
The emu had major cuts across its back and was in-shock when he was brought there Tuesday afternoon.
"All kinds of strange things happen," said Robert Christie of Plant City. It was a strange day indeed for him, after he found a large, lost and bloodied emu, crouched behind a stump in his backyard.
"It happened right across yonder," he said pointing away from his house. He heard dogs barking and went outside to see what the commotion was.
"I hollered at the dogs and they run off, and I went over toward the bird and the bird started toward me and I could see that it was hurt real bad," Christie said.
Reinier Munguia with the Audobon Society in Polk County came out to help.
"Extensive damage, the skin was removed from the backside of the body, there might be some internal bleeding as there is some blood coming out of the beak," Munguia said.
The nearly five-foot tall bird needed emergency care after fighting with a Great Dane and a German Shepherd.
Now, investigators want to know where it came from.
Hillsborough County Detective Homer Brown says rural part of Hillsborough County where the bird was found has plenty of mom-and-pop petting zoos, so the emu could have escaped from one of them. But it's also been a popular spot for people to dump unwanted animals.
In Hillsborough County, the emu is seen as livestock, and not an exotic pet.
"There's no licensure required to keep one," said Sergeant Ed Rayburn with the Agricultural Crimes Unit of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "They're hard to keep, so not a lot of people have them."
There's a reason for that.
"They are really, really dangerous. They can actually kill you with one kick," Munguia said.
The bird had deep cuts across its back but still had plenty of fight left in him. It was a struggle, but eventually they corralled him into a large truck. Once inside, the poor thing just collapsed, on his way to Busch Gardens.
"With the injuries it sustained we had to be careful, we had a special team go in that has worked with emus here in the park, went in and moved the animal out of the trailer," said Phil Hillary with the Busch Gardens Animal Care Center.
The emu was in a lot of pain.
"You can tell with their disposition if they're suffering or not. This one definitely seemed like it was in shock," Hillary said.
Doctors gave the emu painkillers and antibiotics, and are hoping for the best.
"Definitely, with our staff, I can see it pulling through," said Hillary said.
"I hope they get him fixed-up," Christie said.
Doctors hope the bird makes it through the night. It had a pretty rough day, but they said it is stable now. Sheriff's deputies will be talking with people who live in the area, trying to figure out whose bird this is and get it back to the owners as soon as it is healed.
A bird this size they estimate, could take up to six months to heal.