Residents of the Boyette Springs neighborhood in Riverview, Florida, are accustomed to the band of peacocks that has roamed their community for years.
“People will stop and take pictures because it’s a rarity, you don’t see this kind of thing going on anywhere else,” said Karen Coggins, FOX 13 reports.
But neighbors in the Tampa Bay area town say the peacocks have now attracted a new problem: Teens armed with pellet guns, who shoot and kill the birds, according to the TV station.
“My biggest concern is the children in the neighborhood,” said neighbor Amy Johansen, WFLA reports. “If one of those bullets goes and gets them, it just — it would be heartbreaking.”
On Friday, a Boyette Springs resident reported that “at least two neighborhood peacocks were found dead” and had suffered pellet wounds, prompting an investigation into possible animal cruelty, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Authorities said the two dead birds turned up on Wednesday, WFTS reports.
Deputies said a witness reported that — just before the dead birds were found — he or she spotted four male teens armed with pellet guns in a black Ford F-150. Two of the teens were riding in the bed of the truck with pellet guns, WFTS reports. The truck was described as having a broken tail light, black rims and a Costa sticker on its rear window, the sheriff’s office said.
Locals said the dead birds have been found in a variety of places, and that “it’s become common to hear shots fired outside their homes, followed by dead birds found on their streets,” FOX 13 reports.
“We found one dead peacock, initially, that was probably shot out of my tree and landed in my yard,” said local Esther Kirk, according to FOX 13.
The peacocks themselves led neighbors to more dead birds, the TV station reports
“As a pack, [the peacocks] were staring at the storm drain,” Coggins said, according to FOX 13. “So, my neighbor and I went over and found two dead peacocks in the storm drain.”
Authorities are looking through surveillance camera footage from the area to gather more information, according to WFTS.
The sheriff’s office told residents “that social media is NOT an appropriate tool to report a crime,” adding that the best way is to call deputies and file a report. Deputies encouraged anyone with information on the suspected animal cruelty to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office said those responsible for the birds’ deaths could face felony animal cruelty and criminal mischief charges, according to WFLA.