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Miami has a wild peacock problem. One vet says peacock vasectomies are helping

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

People normally love to hear birds sing at sunrise, like these...

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

RASCOE: ...Featured on the Audubon Society's YouTube page. But residents of Pinecrest, Fla., are begging some birds to stop.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEACOCKS HONKING)

RASCOE: Wild peacocks are overrunning the Miami suburb, and Pinecrest has asked veterinarian Don Harris to control the peacock population. Don Harris joins us now. Welcome to the program.

DON HARRIS: Thank you very much.

RASCOE: People know I'm not a big fan of birds, right? But do peacocks actually pose a threat to humans outside of being noisy?

HARRIS: So, I mean, the three things they do is they contaminate sidewalks and driveways and patios and make it pretty slippery, so there have been accidents related to peacock poop. They damage cars. They attack their reflection in the door of a car or on a sliding glass window. And, I mean, I've seen some vicious damage to a car door. And then the noise that you referred to - a peacock's scream outside a sleeping baby's window is not a welcome thing.

RASCOE: And so your solution is not spaying and neutering. This is a vasectomy campaign, right?

HARRIS: Yeah. And the most important factor in this whole process is recognizing that - so the male peacock is polygamous, and the females, the peahens, are loyal.

RASCOE: OK.

HARRIS: So by sterilizing the male, you prevent a half dozen, seven, 10 females from reproducing. It's important to note - you mentioned the neutering. If we neutered the males, we would certainly stop them from reproducing like you do in cats and dogs. But we would also eliminate their dominance. So the procedure is simply disconnecting the testicles from the rest of the reproductive tract. So they retain their testosterone levels. They retain their dominance and their cocky qualities. They keep their females, but they're sterile.

RASCOE: That sounds like a good deal for the peacocks. I don't want to speak for them, though, I mean (laughter)...

HARRIS: The vasectomies - it is ridiculously easy and safe. It takes me about three minutes per testicle.

RASCOE: Yeah, well, I mean, we started off this conversation talking about how loud the birds are. I know you said that the peacocks will remain, you know, kind of cocky and, you know, have all their testosterone. Will they be quieter, though?

HARRIS: Not a bit. This is not going to change their personalities one iota.

RASCOE: OK.

HARRIS: There's short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. The goal is not to eliminate the population. The goal is to stop it from expanding as much as it is because what I'm seeing, as a veterinarian, are more injuries from cars, more dog attacks, more illness because the population is exceeding the carrying capacity of the environment.

RASCOE: So how long do you think it would take to get the population to a reasonable size?

HARRIS: Well, the males beget females in early spring, and then most of the reproduction is through spring into early summer. I think it'll take two or three seasons to see a difference. And I think the difference people will see are fewer babies running around.

RASCOE: That's Don Harris. He's a veterinarian in Miami, Fla. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

HARRIS: You betcha.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUSTY DECKS' "POETIC WAX") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.

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