Recently, Surrey’s Sullivan Heights neighbourhood has found itself divided over a bizarre issue: feral peacocks. For years, these birds have roosted in trees, attacked cars, and squawked throughout the night, but while some residents have been calling for their removal, others say they’re members of the neighbourhood and should be allowed to stay.
After years of debate about who is responsible for these birds, Surrey City Council has decided to take action on the issue. On June 25th, they voted unanimously to capture the peacocks and transferring them to the Surrey Animal Resource Centre.
Sara Dubois, the Chief Scientific Officer for the Surrey SPCA, sees it as a positive step for the neighbourhood and the birds. “These animals themselves are probably not thriving as they could if they were under the care of someone,” she says, “and they are causing neighbour-to-neighbour conflict, which is not great either.”
The peacocks — and the people trying to live with them — have recently found themselves the subject of considerable media attention. In the spring, videos of peacocks attacking residents’ cars (they’d mistaken their own reflections for other birds) were shared on social media. Soon after, a bylaw officer was also assaulted by a resident while investigating a report of someone feeding the birds, a fineable offence. In another incident, a homeowner was fined $1,000 for illegally cutting down a tree where the peacocks had roosted outside his home.
Despite the noise and the chaos, many Sullivan Heights residents enjoy living amongst the peacocks and want them to stay. “I hear them nightly and would love to hear them over the train any day of the week,” a resident wrote in a post on the neighbourhood’s Facebook group. Others argue that the peacocks have been there longer than many of the people, and deserve to continue living wild.
But Dubois says people who view them as wild animals aren’t seeing the bigger picture. “There are no wild peacocks in Canada,” she says. “They are an Asiatic species, or from other parts of the world, so these animals aren’t supposed to be out in the wild […].”
The peacocks originally came from a hobby farm that was sold decades ago. When the owner left, the peacocks were let loose and have been running free in the area ever since.
According to the city’s Peafowl Relocation Action Plan, bylaw officers will be capturing peacocks in public areas, and will retrieve them from private property only at owners’ request. Captured birds will be brought to the Animal Resource Centre and eventually found permanent homes on farms and other suitable sites.
“I think that a lot of people are just confused and think [the peacocks] might be wildlife, and think they should be left alone and be able to do their own thing,” says Dubois. “But this is a situation that has just not been addressed, and it’s thankfully about time that someone is going to mitigate the situation. Hopefully it’ll be a good end for them and for the community.”