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 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.”