The shrill cries coming from behind the Jefferson Elementary School fields sounded almost like a young child in distress.
Sometimes at night, the shrieks would resonate throughout the Madia Lane neighborhood, causing residents a blend of bewilderment and angst over its source: An escaped and abandoned pet peacock living in a nearby patch of woods. The bird eluded capture for nearly three months, prompting some to worry about its well-being and others to plot its demise.
The creature was the proverbial white whale for Timothy Longo, the town’s animal control officer. Just weeks after he was appointed to the position, the first reports of the peacock surfaced.
“We got calls every day,” he said. “But they’re not easy to catch.”
Peafowl, as the male and female birds are collectively called, are related to pheasants and can have wingspans of up to four feet. Though they can’t sustain flight for very long, the birds can use their large wings to lift from the ground momentarily and flee from any perceived threat, as Longo quickly discovered during his pursuit.
Then on Wednesday, Longo received a report of the creature wandering along a fence line in the neighborhood. The close proximity to the fence prevented the bird from expanding its wings, which provided the perfect opportunity for him to capture it.
“It ran, I ran, and then I tackled him with a leap,” he said with a grin.
The capture came as welcome news to Jack Kochem, a night custodian at Jefferson Elementary. Like others at the school, he had watched the peacock with a mix of amazement and concern.
At first, he marveled at the bird, which made frequent appearances during his shift. But as it continued to roam free, he began to worry that harm might befall the creature.
Some residents were bothered enough by the peacock’s loud cries that they complained to the school and suggested it be killed. Kochem also worried that area dogs might harm the bird.
“I kept saying something’s got to be done about this thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, students and teachers at the school began to marvel at the bird, which made occasional daytime cameos. One morning, the bird turned up inside an enclosed courtyard at the school, much to the amazement of the students.
Kochem enlisted the help of his brother, Peter, and the two began calling around to find someone to both capture and house the peacock this week. Unbeknownst to them, Longo was already on the case.
Apparently, the peacock was owned by a resident who was suffering severe health problems. Longo said the bird escaped from an enclosure in April and the man, who was unable to care for it anymore, gave up searching for it.
Longo was at first concerned about finding a new owner for the bird, since the town doesn’t have any facility to contain such creatures.
But by Wednesday evening Supervisor Frank Del Gallo stepped forward to adopt the creature, bringing the fowl saga to a happy resolution.
“It was a good day,” Longo said.