spcaLA in the News
Los Angeles Times | | Saturday, June 21st, 2014
The residents of Rolling Hills Estates have always had a difficult relationship with its exotic Indian blue peafowl neighbors.
For some, the peacocks — which were imported to the Palos Verdes Peninsula a century ago — bring charm and a rustic feel to the upscale suburb. But other say that the peacocks are noisy and can be aggressive, and that their pecking has been known to scratch cars.
For decades, the city and surrounding peninsula communities have tried to keep the peace through regulations, education programs and behavior modification for the birds.
But over the last two years, the situation has turned violent.
During that time, 50 peacocks have been killed by arrows, bullets, pellets, poison or suspicious means, sparking outcry and an investigation involving multiple agencies.
Some peacocks were killed accidentally, but a "significant number" of the birds were killed intentionally, said Lt. Cesar Perea, an investigator with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles.
Nearly 20 peacocks have been killed in the last seven months alone. There are no suspects, but authorities believe the culprits are people annoyed by birds or new residents who are not aware of the long history of peacocks in the area.
Three organizations are involved in the investigation — the Sheriff's Department, animal control services and the local SPCA. The penalty for the animal cruelty charge associated with killing each peafowl is up to three years in prison or a $20,000 fine.
Many of the killings have occurred along or near Dapplegray Lane, the only Rolling Hills neighborhood where peacocks may not be trapped or removed without a permit.
"This is animal cruelty," resident Linda Retz said. "It's frightening for the people who live here."
The biggest complaints about the birds are that they peck at reflections on cars and scratch paint when perched on top of the hoods. Their calls can be loud and sharp, and droppings are common nuisance.
It doesn't help, detractors contend, that residents feed the peacocks, discouraging the birds from leaving the area to forage for food.
Back in the 1990s, Rolling Hills Estates thought the key to solving the dispute involved training the peacocks to avoid annoying residents.
City officials flew out Dennis Fett, director and founder of the Peacock Information Center, from Iowa in 1992 for help. His advice at the time: Build feeding stations and roosting barns away from homes to modify the birds' behavior.
"My plan was not easy, it required work on their part," he said in an email. "The residents who both loved the peacocks and hated the peacocks had to do their part to make the plan work. Neither side did their part."
But Andy Clark, Rolling Hills Estates community services director, said Fett's plan probably wasn't followed because it didn't work.
In 2005, the city implemented an ordinance prohibiting anyone from shooting, taking, trapping or injuring any wild bird in the city. Officials also created a trap and removal program for peafowl, but the process requires homeowners to get a $55 permit. In that time, just 13 permits have been pulled, and of those, only one peacock has been trapped, Clark said.
City officials, meanwhile, advise residents to spray the birds with water or get a dog as a deterrent.
And for some residents like 94-year-old Louise Pierson, that should be enough before resorting to lethal measures.
"I know the birds can be kind of loud, but people that don't like them shouldn't live here," she said.
By VERONICA ROCHA, RUBEN VIVES
Authorities have launched an investigation into the deaths of roughly 50 peacocks that have been killed with arrows, bullets and poison over the last two years in Rolling Hills Estates.
The birds -- hard to miss with their large, colorful displays, loud calls and droppings -- have claimed the Rolling Hills Estates area as home for more than 100 years.
“The cruelty is horrendous,” resident Linda Retz said. “I think whoever is doing this is rather disturbed.”
Some peacocks were killed accidentally, but a “significant number” of birds were killed intentionally, said Lt. Cesar Perea, an investigator with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles.
Perea said he believes the birds are being killed by someone who dislikes them or thinks the peacocks shouldn’t be wandering the area.
The killings, many of them along or near Dapplegray Lane, have prompted an investigation by the society and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Animal Control.
“We are investigating this as a serious felony,” Perea said.
The penalty for the animal cruelty charge associated with killing each peafowl is up to three years in prison or a $20,000 fine.
At least 15 of the peacocks deaths were caused by vehicles, another 12 by pellets or BBs, and additional five from an unknown poison. Others were killed with a crossbow or gun shot would, while some other deaths remain under investigation.
Nearly 20 birds have been killed in the past six to seven months alone, Perea said.
Retz remembers one of the deaths vividly. Her neighbor called her for help after finding an injured peacock, and as she held the bird, it died in her arms.
She suspects the bird was poisoned.
Other neighbors, Retz said, have found injured birds and promptly transported them to a local veterinary hospital.
Retz said Rolling Hills Estates has been long known as an animal community with “kind and caring people who help out any animal in distress.”
The birds, however, have long been the subject of dispute among residents, with some expressing disdain for the animals' sharp calls and droppings.
In 1985, residents got into shouting matches over the peacocks in nearby Palos Verdes Estates. Years later in Rolling Hills Estates, residents urged city officials to “do something” about the birds, while others still wanted the peacocks to be protected.
Rolling Hills Estates has a Wild Bird Protection Ordinance, which prohibits anyone from shooting, taking, trapping or injuring any wild bird in the city.
City officials could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Whatever the longstanding rift, Retz said it shouldn't matter. What’s important is that someone is intentionally killing the peacocks, she said.
“This is animal cruelty,” Retz said. “It’s frightening for the people who live here.”
By Veronica Rocha
By Kristine Lazar
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. -- A Los Angeles animal welfare group wants to track down some killers... of peacocks.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (spcaLA) says more than 40 peacocks and peahens have been killed in Rolling Hills Estates since 2012.
Some were shot with pellets or BBs, run over or poisoned. One was hit with a crossbow bolt.
Two birds found dead last month may have been killed with buckshot. No suspects have been reported at this time, but the spcaLA has asked anyone with knowledge about the deaths to come forward.
Peafowl roam free in the southern Los Angeles suburb. They're known for their gorgeous tail feathers -- and for their droppings and loud, annoying squawks.
However, intentionally killing them is illegal, potentially leading to felony charges of animal cruelty.
By KERSTIN JOENSSON