Efforts to trap dozens of feral Surrey peafowl moving slowly
City officials say 14 of the birds have been trapped and removed from Sullivan Heights
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."
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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