SALT LAKE CITY — One of the main attractions at the Hogle Zoo has now become the centerpiece or a lawsuit involving a peacock accused of attacking multiple children last year.
A bird is accused of attacking four children over the span of two days in late April, with the family of an alleged 2-year-old victim filing a lawsuit in March.
The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the girl got out of her stroller after exiting a monkey exhibit. The lawsuit claims she was then attacked by a peacock which scratched her back, near her eye, and knocked her on her forehead.
The lawsuit alleges zoo staff had known about the bird becoming violent and that after attacking the toddler, the bird attacked a fourth child.
Zoo personnel are accused in the lawsuit of not not subduing or sequestering the dangerous peacock.
"Free roaming birds, their behavior patterns in the spring completely change because they’re looking for mates and they may establish a territory protecting their space," said Richard Nowak, who runs a bird sanctuary and deals with peacocks. "It is possible that a bird may attack another bird or may mistake a person as being a threat to their territory,”
Nowak is the director of Avian Sanctuary and Protection of Utah and believes properly managing the birds could have prevented the attacks.
“During the spring you may have to pen [the peacocks] up, or if you have a caretaker that’s willing to work with them and hand feed them, that also makes them less of a danger to people,” said Nowak.
While he wasn’t at the zoo when this happened, Nowak said many birds have predictable behaviors. He wonders if the time of the year possibly triggered the bird, or maybe the color of the child’s clothing provoked the peacock as they can see in ultraviolet.
“Depending on the clothing a person might be wearing, the bird might see those colors as a threat,” said Nowak.
The plaintiff in this case is demanding a jury trial.
In a statement shared with FOX 13 News, officials with the Hogle Zoo responded to the lawsuit.
"We are aware of the incident involving one of our free roaming peacocks and a young guest, and have received notice of the lawsuit that was recently filed. The safety of our guests, staff, and animals in our care is paramount. Shortly after the incident involving the young guest, Utah’s Hogle Zoo Animal Care Team and Safety Staff swiftly responded and proceeded to successfully capture and relocate all free-roaming peafowl. Currently, there are no free-roaming peafowl on zoo grounds. In order to protect the integrity of the process, the Zoo will address allegations of the complaint through the legal process," the statement read.
FOX 13 News has to hear back after reaching out to the attorney representing the family in the lawsuit.