British Columbia

Surrey council votes to capture peacocks, peahens that have run a-fowl of residents

The City of Surrey will be taking a more forceful approach with a group of peafowl that have multiplied over the last decade in a neighbourhood.

Around 100 birds will be relocated to Surrey Animal Resource Centre; fines for those caught feeding them

A peacock pecks at an upstairs window along 150 Street in Surrey, B.C. in May 2018. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The City of Surrey will be taking a more forceful approach with a group of wild peafowl that have multiplied in one particular neighbourhood over the last decade. 

Council unanimously passed a motion that will see staff gradually remove the peacocks and peahens that live in the Sullivan Heights area, and transfer them to the Surrey Animal Resource Centre.

Bylaw officers will remove both eggs and peafowl found in public areas. Traps will be provided to owners upon request, and anyone found illegally harbouring them will be fined up to $450.

At the same time, the city says it will emphasize a staged approach, beginning with signs and education about the plan. A certified biologist will be retained to ensure the captures are conducted ethically. 

A group of peafowl were left behind by an owner who left the neighbourhood around 2006. The group has now grown to a population of around 100, causing conflict in the area.

"I want to commend bylaw officers for making a plan that seems to be very pragmatic and very humane. Given the society is really divided, it's important we address this with as much compassion as we can," said councillor Vera Lefranc. 

Ryan Cragg is one of the Sullivan Heights residents happy that the city has decided to take action. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Split in the neighbourhood

The plan is getting mixed reactions from neighbours.

"We have so many peahens roosting everywhere in the neighbourhood. So this problem is going to increase," said Jatinder Shergill on Monday. "They definitely need to do something about it."

Shergill welcomes the news that residents will be able to set up traps in their yards.

So does Ryan Cragg, one of the local residents who has assumed a leadership role in the anti-peafowl camp.

"Up until now, there was very little — if anything — we could do that would improve our situation," said Cragg, who admits the birds are beautiful, but hates pretty much everything else about them.

But Cindy Cornik wasn't happy when she learned officials are planning to meddle with the population. 

"I felt sad," said Cornik, who's impressed by the regal appearance of the birds. "You see them walking gracefully on the sidewalk, minding their own business. They give out a call; that's nature."

Cornik doesn't support her neighbours who feed the animals, but said she'd like to see Sullivan Heights declared a sanctuary for the birds, saying they're what make the area special.

Lance Smart, who is known as one of the peafowls' most determined defenders, also says that they're just part of nature, and shouldn't be removed. He said a plan to trap them will lead to more drama in the community, and deeper divisions.

"Oh, it'll be big battle, big battle," said Smart. "People will go to their houses, they'll be banging on the door, screaming at them. It's going to be a huge battle. Huge battle."

He said the plan is doomed to fail, since he doesn't think officials will be able to trap all of the peafowl, and the population will return, "unless they put, like, a thousand traps out there."

But councillor Tom Gill, who is running for mayor this October, believes it was a battle with one side more sympathetic than the other.

"When I'm looking at the realities of noise, of excrement, of damaged property … there are neighbours that have been impacted more than others," he said.