PALOS VERDES ESTATES — The Friends of the Peacocks group has decided not to file a new lawsuit against the city over its plan to permit a thinning of the peafowl flock that has inhabited the community for decades. Instead, the citizens group will sponsor a study to determine the minimum number of birds needed to maintain the flock and will give the information to the city.
After conducting an environmental study in response to a suit filed last fall by the group, the City Council three months ago approved a peafowl management program that permits birds to be trapped on private property, at the request of property owners, by the Southern California Humane Society. No trapping has been done, however, according to city officials.
Group spokesmen said that while they do not believe the study complied with state environmental law, more litigation is not the answer.
Suit Could Spark Backlash
"The issue is the protection of the birds and the protection of the rights of those who don't like them," said Friends of the Peacocks attorney Mike Williams, a peafowl partisan who lives in one of the two areas where the flocks are found.
He said that a new lawsuit might provoke a backlash in which people "might kill them (birds) again," and that even if the group won, the city could try a new plan. The group's suit last year, filed after the council adopted an initial trapping plan in September, contended that legally required environmental studies were not done before the plan was adopted. A Los Angeles Municipal Court judge agreed, and the plan was put aside until the city did a study. But before that was completed, nine peafowl were found dead--their bodies containing high levels of arsenic--in an area where many residents have complained that peafowl are noisy and damage property.
Study on Flock Size
Dr. Martin G. Rigby, an Orange County environmental scientist and former Palos Verdes Estates resident, will conduct a study in Palos Verdes Estates to determine what the minimum size of the peafowl flocks should be, and what ratio of male and female birds should be maintained to preserve the flocks. Williams said Rigby will do the work free, and the study--expected to be completed within three weeks--will be given to the city for "informational purposes."
According to the city plan, birds may be trapped and relocated in a wildlife sanctuary until the flocks have been reduced to 25 birds. The flocks numbered 67 at the last official count, which took place before the nine birds died.
Gar Goodson, a Friends of the Peacocks member, said the group believes that the city plan permits the trapping of too many birds.
City Manager Gordon Siebert said that the trapping plan will not be implemented until a new peafowl census has been taken, probably in two or three weeks.