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Peacock Murderer At Large In Rolling Hills Estates

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At least 50 Indian peafowl, colloquially known as "peacocks," have been found killed in Rolling Hills Estates over the last two years and nobody knows who's doing it.

Some have been hit by cars and poisoned, which may be accidental, but the others have been shot by pellet guns and crossbow arrows. "It really shows a high level of violence in the person that's doing it," humane officer Cesar Perea of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals L.A. told KPCC.

"Just based on the arrows that were found—the trajectory and the type of weapon that was used—these people are walking right to the animal and shooting it at point blank range," he added.

Rolling Hills Estates has passed ordinances protecting the birds and preventing them from being removed or relocated. The killer of the peafowl could face up to three years in prison.

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The Indian peafowls were first brought to the Palos Verdes Peninsula by Frank Vanderlip, a former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury that also was one of the first developers on the peninsula. In the early 20th century his estate had a flock of 16 birds that were the progenitors of the hundreds of peacocks and peahens that wander PV today. A census back in 2005 counted 218 peafowl, with that number surely larger today.

While the birds are certainly beautiful and make for quite a sight along the roads of Rolling Hills Estates, they have become a flashpoint for residents. At almost every community meeting, an issue regarding the peafowl is inevitably brought up. The birds cause all sorts of minor property damage for the residents in the wealthy community by eating plants, defecating all over the place, and pecking at cars when they mistaken their reflections for rival birds. Their presence can also be a nuisance, by squawking all day and just having large numbers everywhere.

"As long as I've been in city government, it seems like we've been dealing with this issue," Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Judith Mitchell told KPCC.

"They squawk. They poo. They stand on your car. They run on [the] roof where it sounds like it's a human being. But they are here, and still—10 years later—I'm living here," said resident Cheryl Rajewski, admitting that living with the birds was a definite adjustment.

The saga of the peafowls in Rolling Hills Estates is reminiscent of the killing of monk seals (a federally-listed endangered species) in Hawaii by residents resentful of perceived elevated status of animals over humans.

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Aside from the population on the Palos Verdes peninsula, Los Angeles County is home to three other distinct populations of feral peafowl, with Arcadia, La Cañada Flintridge, and Glendora each having one. The largest population resides in Arcadia.