An emu was on the loose in the Hillcrest section of Paterson on Tuesday morning, providing city residents with their first-ever look at such a bird.

The phone of Paterson animal control officer John DeCando rang about 15 times in three minutes with calls about an exotic bird running down the street.

"They're yelling and screaming, 'there's a bird from a different planet!' They've never seen it before," DeCando told New Jersey 101.5.

He sent fellow officer Mike Rodriguez to check it out and he was shocked, too.

Emus are similar to ostriches in that they have long necks and legs and do not fly. According to National Geographic, emus are usually found in Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines.

"Mike got it with the net and the stick and brought it back to the shelter. It was a remarkable thing because you don't see many emus around anywhere, especially in the city of Paterson, New Jersey," DeCando said.

Rodriquez caught up with the less than 4-foot-tall emu on the Totowa border. The emu was in good condition except for a bruise on its neck.

DeCando said the emu likely got caught in the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Isaias and is in need of grooming.

And where did the emu come from? DeCando has no idea.

The emu was brought to the Franklin Lakes Animal Center, which arranged to have it sent to a sanctuary.

"Rest assured, it's in better hands than it ever would be," DeCando said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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