Charter school hopes to find homes for nuisance peafowl

Susan Palmer / Eugene Register-Guard /

Published Feb 3, 2013 at 04:00AM

GOSHEN — For the few dozen peacocks and peahens wandering the grounds of the Willamette Leadership Academy, their days as free-range birds may be numbered.

The Springfield School District — which owns the property and buildings that house the charter school — has developed a plan to lure the birds into an enclosed area and then give them away to people who will, presumably, keep them from returning to the school.

For more than a decade, the peafowl, as the birds are collectively known, have been living in the quiet neighborhood of Goshen, strutting from house to empty lot to school to fire station. Lots of people like them and feed them, but nobody claims them.

And that proved to be a problem for the school district and for the Willamette Leadership Academy. The state considers them domesticated animals not subject to wildlife regulations. Lane County considers them wild animals not subject to the domestic-critter rules governing the likes of horses, dogs and emus.

Some speculate that the birds got comfortable hanging out on the school grounds during the year that the former elementary school was shuttered by the Springfield district.

When the military-oriented academy moved in last fall, the birds’ regular presence — and their prodigious droppings — became a problem, not just for the students who are often asked to spontaneously drop to the ground and do pushups, but also in the kitchen, which was so overwhelmed with flies that the county health department issued the school a warning.

At a public meeting last month attended by about 20 people, the charter school and the district heard from several people interested in adopting the birds, Springfield district spokeswoman Devon Ashbridge said.

Among those who attended were people familiar with what it takes to raise peafowl and how to trap them humanely, she said.

Enough school neighbors and other community members indicated an interest in taking the birds that the district is optimistic that it will be able to find homes for all of them, Ashbridge said.

That’s assuming the skittish birds can be caught.

The district sent a letter to interested community members this week describing their plans and asking neighbors to stop feeding the birds — proposing instead to get them used to eating at the school where a fenced enclosure with a netting roof will be built and food placed to entice the birds inside.

Those who agree to take the birds and have a safe way of transporting them will be able to do so, provided they sign an agreement accepting responsibility to care for them and promising not to hold the district responsible for any risks associated with the peafowl. (For more on “risks,” Google the words “peacock attack.”)