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Rangers investigate options after complaint about emu attack at conservation park

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Wildlife officers are monitoring a controversial emu and considering ways to manage it, after a woman said the bird attacked her husband.

Tania Stickler, who has complained about the animal before, is concerned “someone will be killed” in an encounter with it at the Parklands Conservation Park.

But the emu has plenty of support from wildlife groups and locals, who have named it ‘Fluffy’ and labelled it “friendly”.

Ms Stickler sent photos of her husband Lee to SCN, which she requested not be published, showing cuts and abrasions to his face and arm after a confrontation on May 1.

“He was off his horse to adjust a rein strap (and) the emu came running up behind him, pecking him,” she said.

“He hit it with a whip and it took off.

Fluffy the emu. Picture: Steve Roberts

“They proceeded to walk down the hill – a very steep descent – and the emu comes running at pace to attack again.

“Our horse freaks out, takes off and drags my husband.

“The horse bolts off and, in a panic, runs through a ‘no dogs’ sign. It crossed the main road and could have been hit by car or truck.

“My husband and our horse ‘Famous’ were lucky on this occasion.

“His shoulder has rotator cuff injury, and he has bark off his face arm and leg. The horse has some cuts (likely from the sign).”

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Ms Stickler said their visits to the park were important.

“We paid $21,000 for Famous, and we play polocrosse on him. The trail rides are to keep him fit and relaxed from playing in tournaments,” she said.

She urged the Department of Environment and Science to relocate the emu to a zoo or the wild.

“It is a dangerous pest,” she said.

“It is not native. It was dumped there: a pet which has no boundaries.

“I have made complaints before, and I have spoken to other runners and cyclists in that park about their encounters with the emu.

Parklands is a popular location for mountain biking. The sport will feature there at the 2032 Olympic Games.

“We hope something is done to remove and relocate that emu away from people before someone is seriously hurt.”

Fluffy is believed to be one of two emus in the area, after they were let go by owners.

A DES spokesperson confirmed the department had received a recent complaint about an emu and taken some action.

“A member of the public was riding his horse in the park when an emu approached him and became aggressive, causing the horse to bolt,” they said.

“Local rangers have spoken to a family member of the person involved in the most recent incident and have issued a park alert reminding all visitors, particularly horse riders, to take care when visiting the conservation park.

“Signage has also been installed within the park advising actions people can take to stay safe.”

The spokesperson said the animals were under observation and there could be further action taken.

“Rangers are continuing to closely monitor the health and behaviour of the emus and will be investigating additional management options,” they said.

They also reminded people to avoid the animals in the 655-hectare park that is popular with runners, walkers, bike riders and horse riders.

The 2032 Olympic mountain bike events will be held there.

“Emus are a protected species and members of the public are reminded to keep their distance and never feed wild animals,” they said.

The DES last year told SCN that there were no plans to relocate Fluffy because “this has potential to stress the animal”.

Wildlife Rescue Sunshine Coast CEO Claire Smith with Fluffy.

The department has received 11 complaints about emus in the park during the past five years, with five grievances from the same person.

But the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has received multiple reports of user groups having positive interactions with the emus.

There has been significant support from park users, neighbours and wildlife groups for the species to stay in the park.

Many park-goers and animal advocates, including Wildlife Rescue Sunshine Coast CEO Claire Smith, have previously told SCN that Fluffy is adored.

“He has been running with the Nambour parkrun group for a long time,” she said.

“Everybody in Nambour knows Fluffy, and people from around the country come to Nambour just to run with him.”

Park visitor Sarah Roberts shared a picture of the photogenic bird, which her husband Steve took, on social media last year.

“Fluffy quite often hangs out in this car park and welcomes bushwalkers, riders and runners before they head out on the trails,” she said.

Ms Roberts said her husband had been joined on jogs.

“Steve used to get a bit nervous (about it) but he’s got used to him over the years,” she said.

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