The mysterious emus of the Eurobodalla Shire

It’s not Santa’s reindeer that you may spot at the southern end of Eurobodalla Shire this Christmas, but rather the mysterious emus of Bodalla.

The local emus are not native and are actually escapees from Horse Island, keeping reading for more details on their origins. The emus seem to be very popular with a photo posted earlier this month generating more than 260 likes on the Narooma News Facebook page.

The photo taken by Dalmeny local Paulette Harris was of three emus down on Dalmeny Beach on December 19 on a very foggy morning.

Katherine Harrison posted: “Yes we see them every time we go for morning walks on Dalmeny Beach when we are on holidays”, while Sue Butt posted: “Oh I love the Emu's they always bring a smile to my face when I see them. I love the numbers are increasing”.

Donna Davis meanwhile posted a fabulous photo of the Eurobodalla emus at Potato Point. "We see them at the beach all the time," she wrote. And Libby Williams posted a short video, adding: “We love seeing them at Potato Point”.

Even though the emus are not native to the region, Eurobodalla Coast Tourism has still written them up as attraction between Moruya and Narooma. 

The emu phenomenon of the Eurobodalla Shire was written up in the Sydney Morning Herald back in 2004, with the article explaining prominent businessman Trevor Kennedy decided a mob of emus would look nice on his private island.

So, knowing they were locally extinct, he imported a dozen of the birds from Western Australia and set them free on the 80-hectare Horse Island he owns at the mouth of the Tuross River estuary.

The birds may be flightless but, as startled residents are beginning to learn, emus are perfectly good swimmers. Like their owner, Mr Kennedy's emus are not averse to pursuing interests overseas and several promptly departed for the mainland.

At low tide the emus are easily able to wade across the estuary to the mainland but, according to Australian Museum bird expert Dr Walter Boles, an emu is also perfectly capable of swimming across a body of water.

For years the Kennedy emus that fled Horse Island remained in very low numbers, most of their chicks being taken by foxes and other ferals. Recently, however, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has run fox-baiting programs in the area and there is anecdotal evidence that emu numbers have shot up. .

Some residents claim there are now more than 100 Kennedy emus roaming around Bodalla and Potato Point. The birds are also commonly spotted on the sand spits around Tuross Head. 

Emus are now regularly seen on the region's roads and beaches. There are reports of the birds getting into people's gardens and feeding on the green of the Bodalla Bowling Club. They have become such a fixture at the Beachcombers camping ground at Blackfellow Point that the then owners adopted the emu as their emblem.

Back then some locals fear that emus on beaches will inadvertently crush the eggs of endangered shore birds, such as little terns.

They say because the emus are from the other side of the continent, it is inappropriate for them to be allowed to spread further.

Tim Shepherd, the then Far South Coast regional manager of the NPWS, said the emus were not considered a significant problem and were in fact protected.

"The vast majority of people like having the emus around," he said. "We have got no evidence of emus affecting our shore bird program. But if they did, that would be taken very seriously."

However, he said that such releases were not encouraged because all "management activities around native species should be planned".