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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 27, 2016 6 years ago

Persistent peacock population peeves Longbeach Village residents

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As a contractor continues rounding up the local peafowl, Longboat Key residents think the problem may be bigger than town officials originally thought.
by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Residents on the north end of Longboat Key are now hearing the familiar and notorious “ah-ah,” “ah-ah,” “ah-ah” wafting into their homes more often, as island peacocks begin looking for love.

“If one little thing goes by, like a truck, they start screaming their brains out,” said Longbeach Village Association President Fred Kagi. “Because it’s mating season and that gets them going, I guess.” 

As the Key’s most controversial fowl traipse through north-end yards— particularly Fox and Russell streets, according to neighbors — the town’s contractor, Nuisance Wildlife Removal, continues rounding up jailbirds to ship them out to private collectors and an East County rescue preserve. (See adjacent story.)

The trappers have caught 26 peacocks, 19 of which are females, since last year. Still, Village residents are questioning whether the problem is larger than town officials originally anticipated.

“We’re seeing the same couple of dozen birds here day-in and day-out,” said former Town Commissioner Pat Zunz, who lives in the Village.

Zunz said sympathetic neighbors feeding the birds may be to blame for the fact that she hasn’t noticed a substantial reduction in the population. The town doesn’t have any ordinances prohibiting that behavior.

“Things have not changed, as far as I’m concerned,” said Kip O’Neill, who says she has paid for a new mailbox, repainted her car twice and replaced her roof due to the birds. “I have them on my roof stomping every single morning; people are still running their cars onto my my lawn and throwing food on my lawn.”

Residents who have supported culling the flock of fowl — or removing the animals altogether — have called “peacock tourism” a scourge of Village life.

Last year, the Town Commission earmarked $25,000 to remove all but 12 male peacocks from the island. Estimates at the time pegged the peacock population around 150.

“We don’t know how many are left,” said Mark Richardson, the town’s streets, facilities and parks and recreation manager. “Like we’ve said all along, they don’t line up for us to take roll call.” 

James Braha, the resident who oversaw the peacock problem for Longbeach Village before the town stepped in last year, said he could never find a trapper able to relocate as many birds as requested.

“The town, God bless them they have done everything that I can see they can do,” Braha said.

Since the peacocks are loud and roam in packs, it’s difficult to say how many are actually left, or whether the trapper’s efforts are making a noticeable difference, Kagi said.

And the remaining alpha males and females have proven tougher to trick into walking into cages.

“I think we caught the dumb ones,” said Town Manager Dave Bullock at last week’s Town Commission workshop. “The smart ones are willing to go there for food, but they’re not willing to go into the trap.” 

At that meeting, town commissioners authorized the use of tranquilizers to catch those hard-to-get peafowl. But Nuisance Wildlife Vice President Christy Norris believes the Palmetto-based firm could continue cage-trapping birds, luring them in with handfuls of fresh cranberries and puffed oat cereal.

According to Richardson, a method in which trappers would use nets to nab the birds will remain available to authorities. Smart peacocks will catch on to that ruse quicker than the cages, though.

“Right now they still eat out of (Norris’) hand, so we don’t want to lose that trust right away,” Richardson said.

Despite the challenges, Norris remains confident many more peacocks will soon find a new home — away from annoyed neighbors.

“It has slowed down a little bit,” Norris admitted. “But they are still walking in the cage.” 

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