Officials at Utah’s Hogle Zoo say they've pulled peacocks that were freely roaming around zoo grounds after a Davis County family claims their 2-year-old was one of four children attacked by one of the birds at the zoo last year.
The family filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court against the zoo's primary owner, the Utah Zoological Society, earlier this month on behalf of their young child who was attacked by a peacock that was roaming the zoo premises on April 30, 2021. The incident, the family said, happened just after the child left her mother's stroller by the zoo's monkey exhibit.
The family claims the bird "flew down in front of her (and) immediately pounced on (the child), scratching her face just below her eye," according to the lawsuit. They allege the peacock also tore the child's shirt and scratched her back, and then the child spun around during the incident, which caused her to "fall flat on her forehead."
The lawsuit also says this wasn't the first or last time a similar incident has happened at Hogle Zoo. The family claims a zoo employee informed them that the peacock had attacked four children in the span of two days, including twice the day before and another incident shortly after the incident described in the lawsuit.
The family claims in the lawsuit that letting the bird continue to roam on the grounds is proof the zoo failed to maintain a safe premise for children and that the zoo failed to warn guests of the "unsafe condition of the premises" caused by the free-roaming peacock.
The family is seeking a jury trial to determine economic, noneconomic and punitive damages related to the incident, as well as costs, interests and attorney fees. The Utah Zoological Society has yet to formally respond to the claim in court.
Hogle Zoo officials said in a statement Friday that they are aware of the incident and the lawsuit. They contend that Utah's Hogle Zoo Animal Care Team and Safety Staff "swiftly responded and proceeded to successfully capture and relocate all free-roaming peafowl" after the April 2021 incident.
"The safety of our guests, staff, and animals in our care is paramount. ... Currently, there are no free-roaming peafowl on zoo grounds," the statement reads, in part. "In order to protect the integrity of the process, the zoo will address allegations of the complaint through the legal process."
Peafowl are typically "sociable with their own species" but that doesn't translate as much with most other domestic animals. They often take flight typically up to a treetop when they feel threatened, according to Hogle Zoo’s website. Male peacocks may also call frequently with "a loud and harsh" cry during the breeding season.
Hogle Zoo isn't the only zoo or park in Salt Lake City that has free-roaming peacocks. They can also be found at Tracy Aviary and Allen Park — the latter descendants from the previous land owner's old bird collection that predates the park.