It’s been roughly one year since Surrey embarked on a trapping program for Sullivan’s notorious peacocks but it seems birds are still ruffling feathers in the area.
While the city has caught more than a dozen peafowl over the past year, resident Holly Gill told the Now-Leader the issues they bring remain.
“We’ve seen less population,” she said, “but they’re still here. I still have them here, pooping in the driveway and everything.”
Gill said from feces all over her property, to birds making noise in the middle of the night, the impacts are significant.
“When it’s sunny, mostly the morning sun is on our house, and there’s still a lot of them on our roof.”
The noise is especially loud during mating season, she said.
“It’s around 3 o’clock in the morning,” she said. “It’s a very sharp noise.”
Meantime resident Ryan Cragg said things are better around his home since trapping began.
He said a “southern group” of the peacocks near his home seem to have “almost completely disappeared.”
“I’m being woken up far less frequently – probably only five or six times this spring and summer as opposed to last year when it was every single day,” he told the Now-Leader. “I see them in my backyard far less often. Less droppings.”
But he said he knows some his neighbours are still heavily impacted.
“The numbers have dwindled. When I was walking around, the most I’ve counted in a single walk is about 12, which is still a significant number of peacocks when it comes down to it. Those living where they’re roosting would certainly still have problems.”
Gill moved into the Sullivan neighbourhood about 10 years ago.
“When we first moved in 2009, there was only two or three. There wasn’t that many. We were even excited, it was nice. We do have some neighbours who love them,”
But as time went on, the population boomed, leading to significant issues for some residents.
“I did see some little birds yesterday,” she said. “So there’s a new generation.”
“I’m not saying I don’t like them but it’s a lot of work. People farther away from us don’t get them much. In 2009, we only had a few and we were excited, but we started witnessing more mess around our house, and so many times they see their reflection and they attack the windows (on the second floor of her house). The ducts also get clogged up.”
The family’s brand new BMW was also scratched up a couple of years ago when a birds saw its reflection in their vehicle.
“They attack them,” she said. “We still have it, it still has the scratches.”
“They’ve attacked the kids too, they can be aggressive.”
Complaints about the birds go back to 2010 after a previous homeowner left them behind in 2006.
But tensions came to a head in April of 2018 when a frustrated homeowner was fined $1,000 after cutting down a tree known to be a home to the peacocks, saying the city’s inaction left him no choice. This ultimately led to the city council of the day enacting fines for anyone found to be feeding or housing the birds, and the trapping program was born.
Surrey’s bylaw manager Kim Marosevich told the Now-Leader the city conducted an official count in 2018 after the plan was adopted. She said the survey concluded there were roughly 40 to 45 birds in the area, not the 100 previously believed to be residing in the community. Since then, Marosevich said 17 wild birds have been trapped, then rehabilitated at the Surrey Animal Resource Centre (SARC), and adopted them out.
“All required veterinarian care, mostly for parasite control,” said Marosevich.
Four of the 17 are now housed at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove, and the remainder have gone to hobby farms across the province.
“We’re very happy with the quality of people interested in the birds,” she noted. “In fact, there was interest from across North America.”
Marosevich said the city looked at shipping some of the peafowl to a university in Texas, but the regulatory burden and shipping expenses were simply too high.
The trapping program wasn’t easy, said Marosevich, after the city learned the birds could learn to recognize certain vehicles and other patterns.
A biologist was enlisted to oversee the city program, to help better understand the birds and to determine the actual number of them residing in the community.
“So we used a variety of different methods,” she said. “We did end up using net guns, net launchers, for some of the birds. We also had residents who were interesting in helping set up food stations in a garage for example, and we’d go pick up the birds. So the birds who we first trapped were most comfortable with human interaction, likely being fed be people, less suspicious, comfortable entering a garage.
“We trapped nine birds early on, then we hit a wall where we were at capacity at SARC to provide good welfare and we had to slow down trapping, get the birds processed, do the vet checks and find adopters.”
“But we’re prepared at an point in time should we receive another complaint.”
Marosevich said the last complaint about peacocks came into city hall on Aug. 6.
“We did trap the bird the caller was complaining about, and that’s the last bird we’ve processed,” she said. “So it’s a success story certainly for the birds. There were residents concerned dearly in the process about our intention and how the birds would be cared for, and what the purpose of trapping would be, so it’s been about balance. Balancing the community’s need to have peace and quiet along with being able to provide adequate care for the birds.”
Marosevich said the city’s approach to the peacock problem, as with other bylaw files, is complaint-driven.
After hearing of some concern in the community, Marosevich urged residents to contact city hall.
“We’re driven by the public letting us know when they have a problem somewhere,” she said. “The other part of reporting is it helps us understand if there’s a pattern of behaviour, and a location. With the peafowl, it’s not a simple process to try and trap one. We did make some quick wins, with the more socialized birds last year, who were more comfortable with humans approaching them. Those were the initial seven or eight birds we trapped and were fairly easy to catch. As you narrow that population down it does help us to know where at the birds, what time of day. When we’re making plans to do a trapping event it increases our likelihood of success.
“That information helps us target our efforts.”
Marosevich said the city may do another public communication campaign, urging residents to call in with complaints, or to communicate their interest in allowing city officers to enter their property to trap birds, or set up a feeding space.
If residents are still being impacted, Marosevich said “we definitely need to hear what those issues are.”
“Those living further away get to enjoy the beauty, but don’t have to deal with them screaming at 4 a.m.,” she added. “Please contact us. The more information we have the more effective we can be in our effort.”
There were complaints last year of the birds being fed and/or cared for at a particular property in the area, and Marosevich said the city has been in contact with the individual associated to the property who has indicated they’re not keeping birds there.
“And we haven’t heard any more about birds being actively fed and kept on that particular property,” she added.
Meantime, Gill said there’s been an interesting development in the community lately, noting she’s “seen chickens running around on the road” and has heard a rooster’s call from somewhere in the community.
“Just this morning, around 6 o’clock, the rooster was going at it.”
Meantime, city bylaws with respect to feeding the peafowl remain in effect after being adopted in 2018. Residents who feed or house the birds will face stiff fines, and there will be “increased enforcement” with “zero tolerance” for those found to be doing so.
Anyone found in violation would be subject to a $250 fine, under the city’s nuisance bylaw. And, anyone found to be keeping a peafowl would face a fine of $450 per bird, and the peafowl would be seized.
Make a bylaw complaint by calling 604-591-4370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.