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Florida man to give vasectomies to peacocks

A Florida community has a plan to try to slow the growth of the birds that thrill some people and annoy others.
 
A Florida community has launched a plan to give peacocks vasectomies to slow their growth.
A Florida community has launched a plan to give peacocks vasectomies to slow their growth. [ AL DIAZ/ADIAZ@MIAMIHERALD.COM | Miami Herald ]
Published July 19, 2023

Shielded by county law for decades, peacocks in Pinecrest, Florida, are no longer off limits to trappers, and Don Harris is eager to get his hands on the birds.

Pinecrest lined up Harris to perform hundreds of rapid peafowl vasectomies after the village secured an exemption this week from Miami-Dade County’s strict rules against trapping the large birds.

Trappers hired by the village will respond to resident requests for peafowl sterilizations, then ship the birds to a Harris facility for vasectomies under sedation before returning the fowl to the neighborhoods where they were taken. The hope is to slow the growth of a population that’s both beloved by some for its plumage and detested by many for its daily habits.

“The upside of peacocks is they’re beautiful. Everybody knows that,” Harris said Tuesday after the County Commission vote granting Pinecrest a waiver from Miami-Dade’s 2001 peafowl ordinance. “The downside is they can do damage to property. They will see their reflection in a car and attack the car...They roost on fences, on the tops of cars and on roofs. They do damage there. And they’re vocal. Very vocal.”

Related: Why do peacocks roam Tampa Bay?

Pinecrest budgeted $7,500 a month for what’s being described as a pilot program that could expand to other municipalities fielding resident gripes about peacock noise, pecking damage and bird waste on sidewalks, cars and roofs.

“We get complaints about peacocks every week. It’s non-stop,” said Raquel Regalado, the Miami-Dade commissioner representing Pinecrest and other areas around Miami with large peacock populations. “During mating season, it’s our number one issue.”

Peacocks can be a prickly topic in Miami-Dade, which created unique protections for the birds after a petition drive to save a flock in South Miami-Dade. The county law bans killing peacocks — also known as “peafowl” or “peahens” — as well as capturing them, though there’s an exemption allowing property owners to remove the birds unharmed.

Harris is emphasizing the operations shouldn’t upset the established peacock societal order. With vasectomies, male peacocks can still mate with females and enjoy the benefits of being the dominant bird in the flock and peahens can continue laying eggs, Harris said. But after sterilization, peacocks lack the ability to fertilize an egg into a future chick.

Harris is a specialist in caring for exotic animals, with offices in the Stuart area and in South Miami. He said the peacocks will spend about three days with him in a pen located somewhere in Miami-Dade that he doesn’t want to identify.

“This is an abandoned zoo,” he said. “I’m not going to say anymore.”

Regalado sponsored the legislation approving Pinecrest’s new “peafowl mitigation policy,” the second one approved in Miami-Dade after Coral Gables filed a similar waiver request in October. She’s also using her District 7 budget to purchase the vasectomy equipment needed for Harris to sterilize the birds, and said she’d be offering the same assistance to other cities she represents interested in their own peafowl operations.

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“The numbers have grown so much,” she said. “This is an important first step.”