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Elusive emu captured, now back home

Residents of the Grey Fox subdivision in Las Cruces got a surprise last Wednesday when an emu wandered into their neighborhood. The flightless bird was caught the next night. (Courtesy of Lost2found Pets Las Cruces)

Residents of the Grey Fox subdivision in Las Cruces got a surprise last Wednesday when an emu wandered into their neighborhood. The flightless bird was caught the next night. (Courtesy of Lost2found Pets Las Cruces)

LAS CRUCES – You have to wait until dark to catch an emu.

So says Brad Cates, who last week had to follow this advice to bring home an emu that had been on the lam for nearly two months.

Cates owns two emus on his eight acres of land north of Las Cruces. Around Thanksgiving, one of them escaped. On, Thursday, Cates got news of the whereabouts of his wandering emu and was able to contain the exotic, large bird in the backyard of a house.

“I’ve had emus for 30 years. I know all the ways to catch ’em,” Cates said. “There’s no way you can catch one in the daytime. But once they go to sleep, you can put a blanket on it and that makes it halfway easy to get ’em. They’re like chickens.”

Cates said he reported his emu missing around Thanksgiving but hadn’t heard anything until Thursday.

Social media sites last week were flooded with images of an emu roaming around Grey Fox subdivision – a gated community on Thorpe Road and North Valley Drive – fairly close to Cates’ property. Thursday morning, a state livestock inspector showed up at Cates’ home to inform him of the elusive emu. A game warden also contacted Cates.

Cates said he headed to the area where the emu might be Thursday afternoon and spotted it in the backyard of a home. He closed an open gate to the home to ensure the emu would stay in the backyard. Emus, according to Cates, aren’t adept at climbing over things taller than five feet. But he’d have to wait until nightfall to corral the flightless bird.

Cates left a handwritten message for the homeowner: “My emu is in your backyard. Please call me. I can organize a rescue. Thanks.” Cates also left his name and phone number.

About 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Cates and his “posse” headed to the Grey Fox property to bring home the sleeping, 150-pound emu.

The emu’s name? “Hey You! And the other one is Hey You!” Cates said, laughing. “You can’t tell them apart.”

When Cates lived in Virginia, he said, he had 25 to 30 emus on his property, which included a lake. Now, he just has the two.

“I don’t know why, but I like these animals,” he said.

Cates is well-known in Doña Ana County. In 2016, he was the Republican nominee for district attorney, eventually losing to Mark D’Antonio.

A graduate of New Mexico State University, Cates served four terms as state representative and played a leading role in writing the state’s criminal code. He also previously worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, has experience as a state prosecutor and once served as an assistant attorney general.

He now describes himself as a lawyer, software developer and pecan farmer.

“Funny how things work,” he said. ” I’m not out there chasing criminals as DA. Instead, I’m chasing emus!”

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