‘Not a prank call’: Escaped ostriches run amok in Taber, Alta.

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Mounties in the Alberta town of Taber were hit with an unusual task Thursday: Rounding up a herd of ostriches that escaped from a farm.

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And, like the mounted police of old, they got their man.

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“We received multiple calls,” said Cpl. Troy Savinkoff with the southern Alberta RCMP district. “A lot of the calls we received were immediately with the caveat ‘This is not a prank call.’”

The clarity, doubtless, was important. The herd ran amok through Taber — perhaps best known for its bylaw against swearing, screaming or yelling in public — after they got out of an enclosure shortly before 8 a.m. One ostrich, sadly, was killed on the highway nearby where they escaped.

It took more than five hours to catch them all.

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A video posted to social media shows an RCMP truck chasing after one ostrich, while a man — apparently the owner — leans out the passenger window and grabs it around the neck. The ostrich is then hauled to the ground as the truck comes to a stop, but the farmer loses his grip.

“Oh my gosh, this is the first time I’ve ever seen this,” says a woman’s voice in the video.

The ostrich scrambles to its feet and takes off — hotly pursued by another police cruiser.

In the sanitized style of police communications, the Taber Police Service announced on Facebook that the birds “made their way out of town where they created traffic hazards.”

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While unusual, police in rural Alberta are often involved in recovering livestock that have gone AWOL. They’re just usually cattle or horses, said Savinkoff. It was, he said, the first time any of the officers could recall  having dealt with ostriches on the loose.

“Certainly I’ve never dealt with it,” said Savinkoff.

The incident led to a number of jokes among residents on the Taber police Facebook page.

“Missed that, must have had my head in the sand??” joked user Alf Rudd.

“The names of the ostriches were not released to the public because their family has connections to the police,” said Douglas Carle.

Ostrich escapes are not entirely unusual. Earlier this year, around 80 of the flightless birds absconded from a farm in Chongzuo, China; video of that incident shows the birds sashaying down the darkened streets.

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