Bird blamed for distress calls in St. Louis' Forest Park

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- It happens every now and then in Forest Park -- police get calls from people who swear they heard a woman scream in terror.

Those who hear the shriek fear the worst. Invariably, police search the area; usually they find nobody.

But veteran officers patrolling the park think they have a prime suspect for the screams: a peacock.

The St. Louis Zoo in Forest Park is home to at least four of the birds, which are allowed to range freely into the park but never far from their nests. Some think the bird sounds like a woman screaming, "Hellllp!"

"We know it's the bird," said St. Louis Police Sgt. Wilbern Grove, a 39-year veteran of the department. "You get people driving through, and they hear a woman screaming for help. I'm one of few older ones who work in the park who know this. Some of the younger ones don't. But it's the peacock."

The scream reports happen a few times each summer, but no one has ever caught the peacock in the act.

Sgt. Gorlon Curd might be the closest. One night about three summers ago, he was working as supervisor of the park's mounted patrol.

"I met this lady," Curd said. "She and her husband had been walking the bike path. She swore that she had heard a woman screaming. I put her in the car. We drove around for a half hour. It just so happened it was in the area of the north Zoo gate. So all of a sudden. she said, 'That's her!'

"It sounded like a bird screeching to me. But she says, 'That's her!'"

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