British Columbia

Efforts to trap dozens of feral Surrey peafowl moving slowly

A City of Surrey effort to remove the feral peafowl population that has overrun the Sullivan Heights neighbourhood is moving forward, but at a slow, methodical pace.

City officials say 14 of the birds have been trapped and removed from Sullivan Heights

A peacock on top of a roof fans out its ostentatious tail feathers. Mating season is upon Sullivan Heights, which has seen great division in opinion over the feral birds. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The feral peafowl issue in Surrey's Sullivan Heights neighbourhood last year led to an illegally felled tree, steep fines, a search warrant and even a weapons seizure.

Last June, the previous city council decided to address the issue by trapping and removing all the birds. But now, about 11 months later, a flock of the birds — known as a muster — still has its run of the neighbourhood.

Residents and visitors in the area around 150 Street and 62 Avenue will hear the regular, haunting cries of the peafowl.

"Oh, they're roosting everywhere," said resident Jatinder (T.J.) Shergill. "It's pretty much the same story as last year. You know, nothing much changed."

A peacock perches on a fence in Surrey's Sullivan Heights neighbourhood in May, 2019. City officials estimate there are between 25 and 35 peafowl in the neighbourhood The goal is to remove all of them. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Now, as the weather warms and mating season heats up, Shergill and his neighbours are noticing the familiar pattern — peafowl eggs are being laid, peacocks have regrown their magnificent tails, and the occasional vehicle is getting pecked by a bird that takes issue with its reflection.

According to Kim Marosevich, Surrey's manager of bylaw services, trapping didn't begin until November. Nine birds were brought to the Surrey Animal Resource Centre (SARC), where they received treatment for a parasite problem, and were then sent to four private rural properties.

Marosevich said one of the properties is in Surrey, while the others are farther east in the Fraser Valley.

Currently, there are two peacocks and three peahens at the Surrey Animal Resource Centre. They're being medicated and awaiting adoptive homes at hobby farms in the region. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Once the first group was cleared out of the roughly 300-square-foot enclosure at SARC, five more birds — two peacocks and three peahens — were trapped. They're now receiving the same care as the first group.

For Shergill, the city's progress isn't swift enough.

"You know, the way they're doing it, I think it's going to take another five years to catch all the peacocks," he said.

Shergill's chief complaints revolve around the birds' droppings, and their taste for the vegetables his family plants in their garden. He estimates there are still at least 35 peafowl in the neighbourhood.

Marosevich said a recent census found between 25 and 35. She said the goal is still to remove the entire population, but the effort has encountered challenges.

A peacock stands on a log inside the enclosure at the Surrey Animal Resource Centre. It is one of 14 peafowl that have been trapped in the Sullivan Heights neighbourhood since city council directed staff to remove the birds last June. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

She's concerned the first birds to be caught were the easiest, and it will only get harder. On top of that, she said they're smart, and they learn fast.

"Getting them to actually enter a trap that's enclosed is very, very difficult, even for high-value food, like watermelon, or something they find really appealing," said Marosevich.

She said baited traps that work for land-based animals haven't been very successful, and net launchers have their limits.

"They will recognize faces, they'll recognize vehicles. So it's not necessarily the trapping process itself [that they avoid], it's the people as they arrive," she said.

Shergill agrees that the city is up against a wily opponent.

"Yeah, they're smart. They're really smart," he said, adding that some of the neighbours who want the birds gone have done what they can to help the city, but even when the birds are trapped in garages, the animal control officers take too long to come collect them.

Jatinder (TJ) Shergill says at the city's current pace, the local peafowl won't be gone for a few years. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"We've had some success with residents who have offered up their garages, for the birds. You know, set up some food in the garage, wait for the birds to enter, shut the garage," said Marosevich.

Despite setbacks, she defends the city's pace in handling the issue. Looking at other parts of the world where peafowl populations have gotten out of control, Marosevich said slow and methodical removal has been the most successful.

"I think it's really important to recognize how committed we are to doing this humanely and appropriately," she said.

Shergill's message for the city? 

"Keep working hard," he said. "What they're doing now, I don't think it's going to work."


Is there more to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rafferty Baker

Video journalist

Rafferty Baker is a Video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver, as well as a writer and producer of the CBC podcast series, Pressure Cooker. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now