BROOKSVILLE — For the first time since Durwood and Susan Horak moved into their home in a rural neighborhood northeast of Brooksville several months ago, the couple has been able to enjoy peace and quiet.
The Horaks, who in February sought relief from the county because their neighbor, Bernard Iscla, had dozens of noisy peacocks in cages near their property line, no longer have to wear earmuffs.
Last week, several men, women and a boy were seen on Iscla's property removing the birds, which, in addition to the peafowl, included parrots, macaws and cockatoos.
An officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that all of the birds were gone when he inspected Iscla's property last weekend. Iscla, who cared for nearly 1,000 birds, according to a report by law enforcement, was not at the site.
"I'm really happy that the birds are gone,'' Durwood Horak said. "It's just as quiet as country should be. It's like a different world.''
Since Horak lodged his complaint, Iscla's property has been visited by county planning and zoning officials, animal services officers from the Sheriff's Office and the officer for the state wildlife commission.
During those visits, Iscla was told that the cages for the peafowl and many of the other birds were inadequate and he needed to make changes. Iscla immediately began that process.
While Iscla was frequently seen out on his property caring for his birds, about three weeks ago, Horak said, that changed.
Horak hasn't seen Iscla outside since.
The Times has been unable to reach Iscla since first trying late last week. His phone rings without an answer or an answering machine.
He did not return an email seeking comment about the removal of the birds.
None of the agencies that have been monitoring him ordered the removal of the birds.
According to wildlife commission Officer Baryl Martin, the birds were supposedly removed to the property of another licensed bird farmer, but as of Wednesday afternoon the state investigator was unable to reach that individual or inspect the new housing conditions.
An unknown number of Iscla's birds died on his property and were disposed of, and others died en route from stress, but no estimates of numbers were available, Martin said.
At first, Martin said, his agency was also not able to reach Iscla to ask what happened with the birds. Martin said Wednesday he now knows where Iscla is, but has been unable to talk to him. Martin declined to give further information, citing federal privacy laws concerning individuals' medical status.
Friends and neighbors who came to Iscla's defense in letters to the editor after the Times first wrote about the neighborhood dispute also could not be reached for comment.
Roland Medeiros of Brooksville criticized the Horaks in his letter, calling them "Johnny-come-lately city folk who move to rural Hernando County and then begin whining about a barking dog or, in this case, a peacock's call.''
Medeiros said he has known Iscla for 27 years and that Iscla has lived on his 5-acre tract on Blackjack Street breeding peacocks and exotic birds for 30 years.
"Bernard Iscla is a good and decent man and neighbor who doesn't deserve this nonsense from interlopers,'' Medeiros wrote.
Numerous attempts to contact Medeiros were unsuccessful.
Horak said that, while he was glad that he no longer had to listen to the screaming peacocks, he hoped that the county would forge ahead with some sort of ordinance that sets rules for property owners in order to avoid nuisance situations like his.
Officials said that the county attorney's office is working on such a measure. County Attorney Garth Coller told commissioners last month that even if they approved such an ordinance, it likely couldn't be applied to the Horak complaint because both he and Iscla live on agriculturally zoned land, where farms and animals are allowed.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.