As peacocks continue to ruffle feathers in Sullivan Heights, the city is looking to other municipalities for a possible solution.
“We are in contact with other cities that have had a similar problem,” including Florida and Hawaii, said Jas Rehal, Surrey’s bylaw manager.
Have the other cities seen success in mitigating the issues?
“Yes and no,” Rehal replied.
The birds made headlines earlier this year after a homeowner illegally cut down a tree that served as a home to many of the area’s peacocks.
Now, locals are reporting the peacocks are causing damage to vehicles, which has been caught on video.
“The most recent thing we’re seeing now is the peafowl attacking cars,” said resident Ryan Cragg, adding it’s suspected the birds usually cause damage to dark vehicles because they can see their reflection in those colours, which they mistake for another male during mating season.
“They’ll stare at the car for a couple of hours, they have to work up the nerve,” Cragg said, estimating there could be up to 150 of the birds in the area. “They’re doing some real damage.”
Cragg said the peacocks have always pecked at the cars, but “this is just the first time we’ve caught it on camera.”
The birds’ loud calls at dusk and dawn are also causing frustration, he added.
“I have two kids, and if they’re crying through the night, it isn’t much different,” said Cragg. “It’s like living with a perpetual baby.”
The feces is also making decks and backyards unusable in some cases, he added.
“People feel it makes our community unique, and that makes them feel special,” said Cragg, “but those are the people who tend to live a little bit farther away…. It might be nice to see when walking your dog or taking your friends from out of town to see peacocks. But you’re taking that little benefit for yourself while there’s a whole pile of negatives.”
Cragg said he’s complained to city hall about the birds since 2009.
“We’re getting the run around from the city,” he said. “They send you to the SPCA, they send you to fish and wildlife, they send us back to the city. We’re getting told, ‘This isn’t our problem.’”
Cragg urged to city to move the birds out of the residential area, and to crack down on someone who is apparently acting as a “caretaker” for them.
“This has gone on for a very long time. It’s only getting worse,” Cragg stressed. “At this point, with the numbers involved, just stopping a person from feeding them won’t be enough. It’ll be cruel to the peacocks because once we stop feeding them — and we have to stop — the area there won’t be able to support that many peacocks which means they’re going to move out of the area. They’re going to go elsewhere, so this is going to become a bigger problem.
“The only solution now, while they’re all in one spot, is to catch them all and get them out of Surrey.”
Rehal said no decisions will be made about what to do about the birds until after a public meeting. Initially, the city said the meeting would be in late May but Rehal said it’s now expected in early July, after the city finishes consulting with other municipalities.
“We need to engage with the community where they’re being impacted,” Rehal told the Now-Leader. “My sense is that the community is split. We need to get together and talk about what the issues are, what people are facing.”
It seems the birds are in a legal grey area.
Councillor Mike Starchuk said no current laws exist on what to do with these peacocks.
“All of the bylaws we have don’t apply,” Starchuk explained. “This was just one area that was not addressed through BC Wildlife or SPCA through the bylaws.”
The city created bylaws for backyard chickens, which state a property can only have four, couldn’t have a rooster and “considered the whole issue around nuisance and health and safety and hygiene,” noted Starchuk.
But there’s just no law for this peacock situation.
“This isn’t a population of very small creatures that have no impact on the neighbourhood there,” said Starchuk. “We probably all endured being on somebody’s property where somebody nearby holds loud parties and throw their empties in somebody else’s yard, so the party is like the peacocks, and instead of beer cans it’s poop. How do we right this? It’s not a natural occurrence. Peacocks are not native to Surrey.
“I think there’s a part of society that says we should be able to, as homeowners, enjoy our property,” he added. “When the ability for me to enjoy my own backyard has been defeated, we really need to find a solution.”
Meantime, locals seem divided on the peacock problem.
In May, Parm Brar told the Now-Leader he cut down the tree because he felt he was of options after pleading for three years with the city to do something about the birds.
“I can see people getting upset if I haven’t tried anything, if I just went and cut it down, then I’m totally guilty,” said Brar at the time. “But if I tried for three years? I have videos, I have the city emails.”
Brar said dozens of birds came to the tree every night, leaving massive amounts of feces around his yard and in his gutters. He also says they made loud calls at all hours of the night.
“My kids can’t use the backyard,” he said, adding his elderly father slipped on their feces and injured himself.
Some of Brar’s neighbours on the street supported his move.
TJ Shergill, who lives a few houses down, took the Now-Leader to his family’s yard, where peacocks sat on a deck covered in feces.
“This is bad,” Shergill said, “but (Brar) had it worst with that tree…. His father got injured. Broken arm, 10 stitches on the face. You can imagine. A tree is not worth more than his father’s life.”
This is the remnants of a tree that was cut down today, without a permit. You will notice that there are peacocks and peahen surrounding it. What you can't hear is their crying. Someone cut down their home. Without a permit. #SurreyBC @JohnHua pic.twitter.com/osSy3AR9lf
— Cindy Dalglish (@CindyDalglish) May 1, 2018
Many locals enjoy the birds, including Jerry Barr, who had a nest of the exotic bird’s eggs on his front doorstep last summer.
“It’s pretty neat that she picked my house out of everyone’s house,” said Barr at the time.
A mama peacock commandeered the welcome mat on his family’s porch, just outside their front door, and laid four cream-coloured eggs.
Dr. Sara Dubois, BC SPCA’s chief scientific officer, told the Now-Leader a hobby farm in the area closed down, moved off the property, “and the birds stayed.”
“Some people do privately own them, and have them on a hobby farm, they escape or get loose and sometimes those people move and never go and get their animals,” said Dubois. “It’ll be interesting to see how long that population will last.”
-With files from Tom Zytaruk