Quarantine Keeps Peafowl Strutting in San Marino

San Marino residents wishing the city would evict some particularly loud and messy tenants — peafowl — continue to have their wishes stalled by a state-imposed quarantine on poultry.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture reminded San Marino and other Southern California cities on Dec. 23 that the quarantine, which was first imposed last April, remains in effect until further notice. This suspended the city’s relatively new peafowl abatement program — under which birds were removed from the city — to the chagrin of many residents irritated by the creatures.
“We’re just at the mercy of the state, who declared a quarantine,” said City Manager Marcella Marlowe, who was addressing a question about the program at a recent town hall meeting. “Until they lift it, there’s nothing we can do.”
CDFA set the quarantine in response to outbreaks of virulent Newcastle disease among bird populations last year and specifically targeted all of Los Angeles County and portions of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Because the quarantine prohibits moving poultry across those lines, San Marino cannot continue its peafowl abatement, which sent the captured birds to Ventura County cities.
Virulent Newcastle disease, also called VND, is nearly always fatal to birds. Human contact with infected birds is not considered dangerous, although it can result in symptoms like those of flu or conjunctivitis. Humans can transmit the disease to other birds.
The epicenter of the original outbreak was in Bloomington in San Bernardino County, according to the CDFA, and the illness killed more than 1.2 million birds in 2018 in the area under quarantine. In its Dec. 23 update, the department noted that there were 20 new investigations into Newcastle outbreaks linked to violations of the quarantine. Seventeen of those cases are in San Bernardino County, two are in Riverside County and one is in L.A. County.
The city first funded its peafowl abatement program in 2018, and birds were captured in cage traps and sent to outside communities that wanted the birds. Some nearby San Gabriel Valley cities such as Arcadia are known for wild peafowl populations, and the birds have spread throughout the area in recent years.
Before the abatement program, San Marino residents had voiced displeasure about the birds, which are known for their loud calls and their destruction of yard landscaping in search of food. Peacocks and peahens are also inherently attracted to shiny objects, which may account for reports of their damaging parked vehicles.
Animal control entities do not customarily remove or relocate peafowl — unless they are injured — because they are now considered wildlife in Southern California.
Marlowe noted at the town hall meeting that the city retains its line item funding for the abatement program and plans to continue doing so.
“As soon as that quarantine is lifted, then we’ll start the program again,” she told residents.
The city’s website reminds residents to take steps to keep peafowl from their properties. The birds are afraid of dogs, dislike water and will avoid a variety of bird repellants. Residents should firmly cover composts and not leave pet food outside, as the birds like both. The city also lists a large number of plants that attract and repel peafowl.
In the meantime, resident Jim Angelos offered an amusing suggestion at last week’s town hall.
“You know, peacocks don’t taste that bad,” he mused.

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