SURREY — The city says the Sullivan Heights peacocks are staying put for the time being.
Surrey’s bylaw manager Jas Rehal said no decision will be made about possibly relocating the birds until after a community meeting, that he says will likely be set for late May.
“We need to engage with the community where they’re being impacted,” Rehal told the Now-Leader on Thursday. “My sense is that the community is split.
“We need to get together and talk about what the issues are, what people are facing,” he added.
Since the news broke that a homeowner had illegally cut down a tree earlier this week, that served as a home to many of the peacocks, organizations wanting to help have been contacting the city “including organizations throughout the Lower Mainland and throughout the province that care for peacocks,” said Rehal.
But no decisions will be made until after the meeting, he stressed.
Meantime, Rehal said city staff are awaiting a “formal report back from an arborist” before it decides if the homeowner who axed the tree will be facing further fines or if other legal action will be taken. A $1,000 fine has already been issued.
Councillor Mike Starchuk said no current laws exist on what to do with these peacocks.
“All of the bylaws we have don’t apply,” he 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.”
Starchuk said “emotions are a little too raw to come out with a rational decision (right now).”
“As far as the solution, that’s the purpose of having these consultations,” he said.
Meantime, locals seem divided on the peacock problem.
While many are furious the Sullivan homeowner illegally cut down the tree, others have shown empathy and understanding to his situation.
Parm Brar told the Now-Leader he felt he out 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,” said Brar. “Then I’m totally guilty. But if I tried for three years? I have videos, I have the city emails.”
He added: “Ya I’m guilty, I did something I shouldn’t have done but what option did I have left? Why city did not do anything in three years? Even take 15 birds away, leave five, I’d just like to see something done.”
Brar has lived in the home for about seven years, and he said before he bought the property, he had no idea it served as a home of sorts to the area’s peacocks.
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, shortly after work crews had finished clearing the tree’s remnants away Tuesday.
Some of his neighbours on the street supported the 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.”
But others are furious, such as Cindy Dalglish, who called for stiffer penalties from the city.
“I can imagine there’s also a sore spot for this owner in that he’s dealing with droppings of the peacocks and whatnot,” said Dalglish. “But at the end of the day he didn’t have a permit to cut down this tree and so we’re pretty upset not only that he’s taking their home away but that he did it without the approval from the city.”