DECATUR — The police have a radio code for livestock loose near a highway — 10-54 — but there is no code for an escaped camel.
But that is exactly what Macon County Sheriff’s Office deputies found themselves faced with at 7:53 a.m. Sunday near Interstate 72 near the exit to Illinois 48, not far from the Pilot truck stop.
Authorities had been alerted by passing drivers who had seen the two-humped “ship of the desert” plowing its way across harvested cornfields.
Sheriff's Lt. Jamie Belcher said deputies were able to trace the owner, who lives on Forest Parkway, and confirmed he was missing one of two camels he owned.
“After chasing it around for an hour and a half, the camel finally wore itself out,” Belcher said. "Three deputies and one of our animal control wardens were able to get the owner close enough to where he could lasso the camel with a rope and return it to its pen.”
Belcher said deputies wanted to make sure the animal stayed well away from traffic and other hazards as it sampled a taste of freedom in a strange land far from its desert ancestry.
“Fortunately, it stayed out of traffic, stayed off the interstate, and we were able to get it safely home,” he added.