Rustler fear over missing rhea
The owner of an " aggressive" ostrich-like bird which has been hunted by armed police since it was reported missing two days ago fears he has been stolen.
People living near Carlton-in-Lindrick, in north Nottinghamshire, have been warned to stay clear of the 6ft tall male rhea and told to call 999 immediately with any sightings.
But owner Alex Macdonald said that despite police officers turning out earlier this week with shotguns and rifles to look for the unnamed bird, he thinks it must have been stolen.
Mr Macdonald said that even though the missing rhea is a male, he is sitting on eggs at the moment and it is unlikely he would stray far.
Today, the bird's female partner was pacing the field they share looking for her mate.
"They used to play a lot running around the fields and stuff and she's not doing that at the minute. She's just getting over the fact she's on her own now," Mr Macdonald said.
"It's speculation but I think it's been taken. Nobody's reported it and it's something you would report if you saw it."
He said: "She's all right. She doesn't really want to attack you when you come in but the male was aggressive, very protective because he was sat on the eggs.
"It's the male that does the sitting on the eggs with these - either that or ours is just odd because that is what he does.
"My dad's just put them in a bucket at the top of the garden hoping that he'll come back and will know to come to its eggs."
Mr Macdonald, whose family also keeps alpacas, goats and other animals, said there are CCTV cameras all over the farm and these are being gone through second-by-second.
He said a gate was left open and he believes someone must have taken the bird. But he said it is possible the thieves shot it first as they would have had difficulty putting it in a vehicle.
He said it often needed four men to wrestle it to the ground if they need to move it.
"You'd expect it to stay local if it's got kids on the way, wouldn't you, and with the Mrs in this field," Mr Macdonald said. "If if it was just fear that made it jump and run, you'd expect it turn round and come back. It's definitely strange."
He said: "P eople take it lightly because they think it's just a little bird. But they don't understand, until you get into a field with one and wrestle one - they've got claws, they kick like mad. They're quite powerful and they can run quite fast - 30 mph probably. That's quick."
Mr Macdonald said the police took the disappearance very seriously after a couple of "inevitable rhea jokes".
He said: " They had rifles, shotguns. There were marksmen who came, they were ready to take it out."
He said the family has raised about 10 of the birds from eggs over the years and sell them for meat.
The animal went missing from the farm on the outskirts of Carlton-in-Lindrick, near Worksop between Monday evening and midday on Tuesday.
Police said this morning there have been no confirmed sightings of the animal.
Inspector Paul Peatfield from Nottinghamshire Police said: "We are warning local people and particularly those with small children to be on their guard and not to approach the bird, which poses a very real threat to the public due to its size, aggressive nature and the unfamiliar surroundings it could find itself in.
"Officers are working with the owner to trace the bird as we look to bring his incident to a safe conclusion.
"If anyone sees this bird, please call 999 immediately, quoting incident number 601 of Tuesday 23 June."
Last year, another rhea - nicknamed Chris after the Road To Hell singer - went on the run in Hertfordshire.
The 6ft bird became a familiar face at Barkway Park Golf Club near Royston after it escaped from its enclosure nearby in April 2014, but police were worried it could cause a car crash.
After more than a month on the loose, the fugitive was shot dead by gamekeeper Stuart Howe who turned the bird into gourmet sausages.