CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — For more than three months ‘Eno the Emu’ was on the run in North Carolina, crossing county lines and repeatedly eluding animal control. Eno’s story came to a tragic end Thursday.

“I bonded with him and he bonded with me and I feel like he felt safe around me,” said Juan Pablo Garcia, who first met Eno in his Chapel Hill backyard.

Garcia is taking Eno’s death personally.

“I would feed him grapes bananas in the morning time and afternoon,” explained Garcia.

Garcia says he had more than a dozen interactions with Eno right in the woods in his backyard. He believes animal control could’ve done better and could’ve done something to prevent Eno’s death.

“Every time it would see a policeman, every time they would come on my property it would run away from them,” said Garcia. “I feel like it already knew who they were. I wish he would still be here walking around. I think if they had left it alone it would probably still be alive.”

Orange County Animal Services Director Bob Marotto says they are just as heartbroken.

“I’ve had staff cry as a result of the loss of the bird,” Marotto said. “I know those of us who were there yesterday when we realized we had lost the bird we were all quite speechless and dejected and a number of people were on the verge of tears.”

Marotto says they had been working to gain the bird’s trust for weeks by feeding it in the same location.

“I don’t think we entirely know what went wrong yet,” Marotto admitted.

The plan was to feed the bird fruit with a sedative so they could transfer it to a trailer and take it to the sanctuary, but the sedatives didn’t work.

“At one point there was an opportunity to actually put hands on the bird and we did. We just restrained the bird solely for the purpose of moving the bird to the trailer and in the course of doing that the bird died,” Marotto said.

The team’s efforts to revive the bird with CPR did not work.

Marotto says he feels confident that they did the best they could to rescue Eno safely.

“I think we did our due diligence in pulling together a team that included experienced handlers from the North Carolina zoo along with an avian veterinarian,” Marotto said. “We recognize that animal services staff don’t specialize in exotic animals. All together as a team I think had the kinds of skills and knowledge we would expect to be needed to make a successful rescue operation so it’s easy to second guess ourselves. It’s easy for others apparently to second guess us. Unfortunately, due to the bird's frailty given the stresses, the bird had already experienced, given the stress of the moment it did not go as we wished it would have gone.”

Some wanted to know why Eno couldn’t just be left alone.

“I think that is a question that comes up in this context,” said Marotto. “I think people should not overestimate the extent to where the bird was thriving in the circumstances that it was living. The bird was alive. We don’t know how healthy it was. The stress of being outside in the wild I mean it was moving 10 or 11 miles before we began to feed it because it needed food and it was searching for food and it was out in the wild where there are cars. The bird had been in two near vehicular accidents. The bird had been close enough to highway 40 in more than one location. None of us would ever have wanted the bird to be responsible for a human fatality nor would we have wanted the bird to die as a result of being hit by a car. I think another reason is we have concerns for the bird to survive the winter here in North Carolina.”

Marotto says they will be performing a necropsy to find out exactly how Eno died. He will also be cremated, but they have not decided yet how they will honor the famous bird.

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