A Kemptville, Ont., sanctuary for abandoned farm animals has taken in an exotic resident this week: an emu found shivering in the cold over the weekend.

Jonathon and Rob Baxter were out rabbit hunting on Saturday when they spotted the large flightless bird, which is native to Australia, but which is often farmed in Canada.

"I saw a bush stand up and it had a long neck and a beak," said Jonathon Baxter. "So we walked over and realized it was an emu. It had laid back down by this time and it was pretty cold covered in snow and ice and was in really rough shape."

The two brothers hauled the bird to their truck and took it to the home of their aunt, Bryonie Baxter, who is also a volunteer at the Big Sky Ranch animal sanctuary in Kemptville, about 50 km south of Ottawa.

Begun in 2002 by local hobby farmer Andy Parent, the ranch has helped over 1,500 abused or unwanted animals and now houses over 150 animals, including horses, goats, pigs, ducks and rabbits.

But Elly, as the bird is now known — is the first emu to make its roost at the shelter.

"It's an animal unexpected at the sanctuary at this time of year but we'll take care of her and give her a good home," said Parent, who said the bird was likely at the sanctuary to stay because anyone looking to buy the emu would do so for eggs or meat.


Elly the emu was found Saturday covered in snow near Kemptville, Ont. ((CBC))

Parent said the bird doesn't handle temperatures of -10 C and below, and so would stay inside for the winter, where it shares a space with Pumba the pot belly, Nova the goat and a thousand-pound pig named Arnold.

While there are local farms with emu in the area — none have reported having missing birds. But it also seems unlikely the bird was living in the wild, said Bryonie Baxter.

"I can't account for an emu running wild," she said. "It's not native to this country so I have no idea why it's out in the woods by itself."