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A Peacock (Named Bismarck) and the Law


A peacock moved into my and my neighbors’ adjoining yards (in Mt. Tabor) a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a legal research or law library angle on the situation.

(The fact that neighbor kids have named it Bismarck doesn’t help, except for the laugh factor. You know, that crested helmet thing, though how they got to Bismarck I’m not entirely sure, except for the perils of high school history textbooks nowadays. It also doesn’t help that peacocks are incredibly beautiful and fascinating to watch – especially the way they watch US from their high perches, fences, trees, etc. Do we really want him to go away?)

But, I have said I can find a legal research / law library angle to just about anything in life, so here goes:

1) Most public law library patrons are in search of a solution to their problems. Not all of those problems require a legal solution, but almost all require a bit of detective work, some research, some phone calls, a search for an expert or two, some action (legwork or otherwise), and a fair amount of determination to see the job through. An urban peacock is a problem in search of a solution. (Lame, but, legal research – ish, though definitely a public law librarian question.)

2) Chickens and the Law, about which I’ve posted several times (chickens are very popular in urban areas, so it seems). Chickens and peafowl (peacocks and peahens) are both Galliformes. But solving legal-galliformes (and other wildlife) problems is getting more and more difficult: see, e.g. the post at Jack Bog’s blog about the Troublemaker Raccoon.

3) Litigious Peacock Peckees: When I ask around about what to do with a peacock, even one named Bismark, everyone in the Portland metro area seems to think that is a bunch (!) of litigious people were the reason that after 30 years with relatively trouble-free roaming peacocks (other than that badly pecked Mercedes in the parking lot), the Oregon Zoo no longer has peacocks and has farmed them out (maybe this is the source of my wandering peacock). (Type the words, portland oregon zoo peacock, into your favorite search engine for more stories. You will see that there is more to the story, as usual.)

From the Oregonian story:

“… Peacocks have ambled the grounds for as long as any employee can recall — perhaps since the zoo moved to Washington Park in 1959. But the birds, members of the pheasant family, also fly off zoo grounds into the forest and elsewhere whenever the mood strikes them. They return freely, drawn by safe roosts and a scrumptious supply of spilled popcorn, French fries and actual peacock feed.

The flock once numbered 30 or more, said Mike Keele, deputy director, but the zoo has steadily reduced the numbers as concerns about disease transmission between free-flying birds and captive animals escalated. Fewer than 10 peafowl roam the zoo today, Keele said.

Although they avoid capture as skillfully as veteran fugitives, in 2002, keepers caught all the peacocks so veterinarians could perform vasectomies.

The vasectomies were the easy part.

Catching the birds took a few months: The peacocks swiftly learned to flap off and perch high in fir trees when they saw a uniformed zookeeper headed their way.

As it became better understood that the birds might be able to transmit salmonella, West Nile virus or other diseases to species confined in exhibits, the zoo decided to eventually farm out the whole peafowl flock. Last week’s attack propelled zoo staff to expedite the plan.

Despite their elegant appearance and dapper plumage, the birds are not well-mannered zoo animals.

Males establish territories and females roam the zoo in search of them. They swipe other animals’ food and defecate in their exhibits, just as a housefly might move rudely from one picnic table to the next….” (read full story)

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