In less than an hour, 73-year-old Karen Silverman did what Wile E. Coyote has not been able to do for decades: catch a roadrunner.
Perhaps not the Road Runner, but certainly a mischievous - and very real - roadrunner who secretly traveled nearly 3,000 miles from Las Vegas to Westbrook, Maine, last week in the back of a moving van.
Having previously tested software for a living, Silverman is now retired and spends much of her time volunteering for Avian Haven, a rehabilitation center for wild birds based in Freedom, Maine. Much of the work involves catching and helping birds in need. Sometimes, it's robins and starlings; other times it can be a young bald eagle, an owl - or even a turkey.
"Oh, and let's not forget the pigeons LOL," Silverman wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
As for roadrunners? "We don't typically see roadrunners in Maine," Silverman said. The birds, according to the Cornell Lab, live almost exclusively in the Southwest.
Last Saturday, however, a father and son contacted Avian Haven because they had discovered the stowaway while unpacking their van, officials with the animal sanctuary wrote in a Facebook post.
In an interview, Silverman explained that she was the only volunteer available in the Portland area when she received a text asking: "Can anybody get a roadrunner?"
Though she had never encountered one, Silverman said "absolutely." She met the father and son - Gary and Brian - at a storage facility in Westbrook. Gary, the father, told Silverman the bird may have escaped the truck to wander the facility - or worse, the woods nearby. This slightly perturbed Silverman, she said, because only about a week earlier, she had trouble catching fast-running sanderling.
But much to Silverman's relief, Brian, the son, suddenly yelled: "The bird's still in the van!"
Gary and Brian worked to push the bird into the back of the van where Silverman was waiting with a net. The plan worked: Silverman quickly netted the bird and carefully put it in a box. She contacted Avian Haven and said: "I've got the bird."
The roadrunner was transported up to Avian Haven, where it was given shelter in an indoor pool area, which is heated in colder months. "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," a Facebook post from Avian Haven said a day after the bird was taken in.
Weighing in at over half a pound, the roadrunner was more likely a male, a follow-up Facebook post stated this week. It is being treated for parasites, and has been inspected by a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian, which can issue a certificate authorizing the bird's travel, the rehabilitation center said. A direct flight out of Boston back to the desert is likely the best option, Diane Winn, Avian Haven's executive director, told the Portland Press Herald.
As creatures of the desert, roadrunners rarely wander outside the Southwest, according to the Cornell Lab. The birds eat venomous reptiles and scorpions, and have a system for hunting rattlesnakes. Although they are fast and can outrun humans, roadrunners differ in several ways from the famous Warner Bros. cartoon character: Coyotes can easily outpace the roadrunner, and the bird's sound is less a "beep, beep" and more a dovelike "coo, coo."
Avian Haven has cared for 34,000 and 100 species, and it is the first time the hospital has cared for a roadrunner, Winn told the Press Herald.
Silverman, for her part, was thrilled. "I mean, it's pretty exciting to be netting a roadrunner in Maine."