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Starting in July, Alaskans can own emus

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 4:48 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska has strict laws when it comes to what animals people can own that aren’t native to the state. For a long time that included emus. Now, some people are cheering a recent decision that will allow them to legally keep emus for the first time.

The large flightless birds were authorized by the Alaska Board of Game in March of 2022, with the new regulations taking effect July 1, 2022. The move came after several years of petitioning by people who already owned emus. Ryan Scott with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said emus pose a low threat for passing disease to indigenous species.

He said the decision means emus will now be considered domestic animals, the same way chickens, dogs, cats and cows already are. No permits will be required in order to possess an emu.

Andra Holmstrom is not one of the people who fought to make emus legal, but she’s grateful to those who did. Holmstrom has two 1-year-old emus at her Eagle River home that she’s affectionately named Ron and Nancy. While Holmstrom’s birds are clearly pets, she says in many places emus are raised commercially.

“The emu has a lot of resources on it,” she said. “There’s all the emu fat which makes emu oil, the skin makes incredible leather, the meat is really healthy for you. So emus really are actually kind of a great commodity for food and goods.”

Holmstrom’s emus are gentle, don’t mind being petted and seem quite calm around humans. But Holmstrom said some birds become aggressive once they reach sexual maturity.

“I happen to think that as a bird they’re just very interesting because they don’t do a lot of the normal bird things that you’re used to,” she said. “You’re just used to having a bird in a cage and these guys move around and interact, and they just kind of keep life interesting, frankly.”

Holmstrom stresses that the birds are not for everyone. They require a lot of space and a fenced enclosure. And they’re a big commitment — in captivity they can live to 30 years old. She says even with the new regulations, she doesn’t plan to add to her flock.

“Oh no, I don’t want more emus,” Holmstrom said. “I like the two that we have. They’re a lot of fun, they’re very entertaining.”

But she’s very glad the birds will finally be legal to own.

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