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Why Was a Sanctuary Emu Shot Dead?

Why Was a Sanctuary Emu Shot Dead?
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An emu named Mary was shot and killed by an unknown assailant last week. The why has not yet been determined. The reward offered to find Mary’s killer has just been increased to $5,000. And no, it won’t bring her back but it may help provide answers to why, how and who.

Mary’s Story

Mary was living at Rikki’s Refuge since 2006, a no-kill sanctuary in Orange County, Virginia. She was a shy bird who didn’t want to socialize with the other emus at the sanctuary, so she was given her own space with a goat called Gandolf who incidentally, didn’t like other goats. They became best friends.

Later on a pair of emus, Windy and Wonda, who were not comfortable with the already established emu herd, joined the pair.  Then a shy pig named Beau became the fifth animal to become a member of this unlikely multi-species family.  They spent some happy years together until January 7, 2014 when a bullet from places unknown shot into Mary’s leg, rupturing arteries, causing her to bleed out very quickly.

“Mary was very loving to the few humans she knew well,” said Kerry Hilliard, Executive Director and Founder of Rikki’s Refuge. “She’d come and rest her head on my shoulder and lean against me with her long neck.”

The Fateful Day

It was breakfast time and a staff member was about to feed the five member family when he received a call for help at the horse area at Rikki’s Refuge. He was gone no longer than 15 minutes and upon returning discovered Mary on the ground, barely breathing and lying in pools of her own blood.  His screams brought the medical team running but it was too late. Mary died quickly. The necropsy estimated she bleed out within 15 minutes from a gunshot wound.

You would think working at an animal sanctuary would not put you in harm’s way from humans with guns. Since Mary’s death, sanctuary staff is concerned about another incident of gunfire endangering not just the animal’s lives but the human caregivers as well.

When asked about staff reactions to the killing, Hilliard wrote, “It’s making it harder to fill the positions with people asking, ‘Could I get shot?’”

About Rikki’s Refuge

Rikki’s Refuge sits on about 400 acres of wooded land in Virginia’s Orange County. The central 100 acres are cleared for the sanctuary’s buildings and pens where the animals live and are cared for.

Just under 1,300 animals of 22 different species live there. Domestic animals include cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and iguana.  A lot of farm animals call it home; emus, pigs (both pot and farm), donkeys, horses, cows, goats, sheep and farm birds like chickens, ducks, geese, and so on are among them.

Generous donations have flooded in which has allowed Rikki’s Rescue to increase the reward from its original $1,000 to the current $5,000.

The sanctuary has five major programs including:

  1. Rescue, Adoption, Lifelong Shelter
  2. Spay/Neuter Education and Support
  3. Humane Education
  4. Safe Haven for Wildlife
  5. Maintaining the Biological Diversity of Virginia Flora and Fauna


Next page: The Investigation

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All photos of Mary courtesy of Kerry Hilliard

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5:34AM PST on Nov 11, 2014

so sad but thanks for sharing, RIP Mary

11:30AM PST on Feb 3, 2014

Georgia G. My heart hurts as much as yours and my thoughts are aligned with yours. Anyone who kill any beings should be wiped out on the face of this planet as there's no room and no tolerance for such evil act!!

11:25AM PST on Feb 3, 2014

Poor and sweet Mary, I hope you rest in peace. I really hope they can catch that cold blooded, coward and bring him/her to justice!!!

3:29PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

RIP Mary! =(

6:52AM PST on Jan 20, 2014

Poor Mary - wish we could find the lowlife who did this to you and do the same to them.

2:36PM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Just horrible. Hope they find the sick SOB's who did this and poor Mary gets justice. RIP Mary.

1:48PM PST on Jan 19, 2014

I hope God has a special Hell for poachers. I am sick to death of hearing of the atrocities done to animals and it seems to be worsening. So frequently now I read of another group of animals being placed on the list headed for extinction and it saddens my heart as I know I cannot turn this trend around. The wanton manner in which animals are being slaughtered I forsee a time in the future when so many more species will be seen only in zoos and books. No more polar bears, elephants, chimps, gorillas, lions, orangutans....does the thought of their disappearance from this planet cause your heart to constrict as it does mine?

3:26PM PST on Jan 18, 2014

I all be following this case. I really hope the criminal will be found. Just hope it's not somebody who works there.

1:48PM PST on Jan 18, 2014

So sad and disgusting,thanks for sharing

5:39PM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Might have been a mercy killing 1,200-1300 animals (unless they are mice) can’t exist on 367 -100 acres for the cages, limited grazing and lot’s of imported feed.

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Thank goodness for caring firefighters! Thanks for a story that brightened my morning.

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