DENVER (CBS4) – No one was hurt but there was a brief scare at the Denver Zoo Friday afternoon when a large flightless bird escaped from its exhibit.
The bird, a double-wattled cassowary, managed to run up against the fencing of its exhibit and squeeze through.
When they got word of the escape, administrators closed off the zoo to visitors and moved some zoogoers into enclosed areas so they wouldn’t be at risk. Cassowaries can be aggressive.
Sometime later the bird was located near its exhibit hiding in some brush. Zoo staff then used some fencing to herd the animal into an enclosure.
There are only two cassowaries at the Denver Zoo, an adult male and an adult female. Their exhibit is in an outdoor area near the bird house. The female didn’t escape along with the male.
Once he was placed back in his exhibit staff moved him to a back area where he won’t be visible to the public. The exhibit was also closed for the day.
The zoo was reopened to visitors after 3 p.m.
According to its description on the Denver Zoo’s website, a double-wattled cassowary, also known as the southern cassowary, has “strong legs have three toes with sharp claws.” Adults are about 6 feet tall and they can run as fast as 30 mph. They are also good swimmers and jumpers.
“They will occasionally attack humans using their powerful legs to lash out with their large claws,” the description on the zoo’s website reads.
The bird comes from the Australian region. In addition to northern Australia, it is a native of New Guinea and some of the eastern island groups of Indonesia.
The last time the zoo had to close to because of a situation with an animal was in 2007, when a jaguar attacked and killed a zoo worker.
Ashlee Pfaff, 27, was killed when a 140-pound jaguar pounced on her in an employee access hallway. Federal safety officials cited the Denver Zoo for alleged unsafe working conditions in that incident.