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A roadrunner got trapped in a moving van in Las Vegas — and ended up in Maine

It was unclear if the bird was trying to escape its nemesis, Wile E. Coyote

A greater roadrunner hitched a ride in a moving van from Las Vegas all the way to Westbrook, Maine. Wildlife officials are working to return the bird to its home.Terry Heitz/Avian Haven

Someone should have warned this speedy bird that the coyotes aren’t any better here in New England.

A father and son were greeted by a strange passenger on Saturday when they opened the door of a moving van that had traveled from Las Vegas to Westbrook, Maine: A roadrunner that had somehow hitched a ride across the country.

Now, wildlife experts in Maine are working to get the small bird back to its natural environment as soon as possible.

According to the Westbrook Police Department, the greater roadrunner, which is native to the Southwest and can reach speeds of 15 miles per hour, was discovered when the two men began unloading the vehicle at a local storage facility following a four-day road trip.


After speaking with police about the surprising stowaway, the men connected with staff from Avian Haven, an animal rehabilitation center in Freedom, Maine, that cares for wild birds that are orphaned, sick, or injured.

Officials from the hospital sent Portland-area volunteer Karen Silverman to try and rescue the bird soon after they learned about the “surprise guest,” according to a statement.

Once she arrived, the son located the bird “hiding in a front storage area” of the moving van. He then “flushed the roadrunner out into the back of the vehicle, where Karen handily netted the bird.”

With the help of other volunteers, the roadrunner — the same species who starred in the Looney Tunes cartoon alongside the rascally Wile E. Coyote — was then whisked away to the center in under an hour.

“The roadrunner was in remarkably good shape for having been confined in the van for four days, leading us to wonder if perhaps some food items had also stowed away,” said officials from Avian Haven, which has indoor infirmary space. “Our first priority [Saturday] afternoon was stabilization and provisioning. The bird was eating well by the end of the day.”


While wildlife experts had never taken in a roadrunner before (the birds prefer much warmer climes), the organization’s rehabilitation manager has experience with them, the center said.

“So we have firsthand knowledge as to how to care for the bird,” the statement said.

According to the Portland Press Herald, which first reported on the runaway bird, staff at the center are working on the logistics of returning the roadrunner to Nevada, which requires a special permit. Officials would like to fly the bird out of Boston if possible.

A spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said by e-mail they reached out to the Nevada Game and Fish Department for a “wildlife importation permit application,” which was forwarded to Avian Haven to fill out and submit.

As of Tuesday, the roadrunner was in good health and awaiting a trip home that Avian Haven anticipates will happen sometime next week.

The situation has certainly been unusual. But that’s nothing new for Westbrook, which is home to both the famous ice disk and “Wessie” the river snake. As they’ve been known to do, Westbrook Police officials summed up the situation with a dash of humor.

When they posted about the bird on Facebook over the weekend, police included a picture of the cartoon version of the Road Runner alongside the one that escaped Nevada.


The comments from people that followed came in as fast as the bird itself.

“Was it Acme moving?,” one person wrote, referencing the fictional company often mentioned in the animated shorts.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.