Rupert, a controversial rooster, frustrates a Tisbury neighborhood
Rupert the rooster continued to ruffle feathers in a Vineyard Haven neighborhood this week, as some neighbors demanded that the fowl be captured or killed in an effort to silence his incessant crowing that keeps many homeowners awake at all hours (Jan. 5, 2011, "Rupert splits ears and a Martha's Vineyard neighborhood").
But some of the residents on or around Leonard Circle turned out in force to support Rupert this week. They appeared before the town selectmen Tuesday to ask that their Rupert be allowed to remain in their neighborhood.
Rupert has become a divisive figure around Leonard Circle over the past two years. Some of his listeners are fed up with his late night and early morning crowing, and although they may consider him a sort of mascot, they do have a problem with his cock-a-doodle-doing.
The issue came to a head May 12, during a well-attended public hearing before the town zoning board of appeals on a separate, but somehow related issue, namely a request by Leonard Circle resident Josh Aronie to transfer four chickens onto his property.
The discussion at that meeting soon invoked Rupert, and a great majority of the people attending called for him to be captured and removed. In response, the zoning board wrote the selectmen asking for their help with the problem.
"This rogue rooster, who apparently has no owner, travels with banks of turkeys and crows quite loudly at all hours of the night," wrote Laura Barbera in a letter to selectmen, dated May 16.
"The board feels that this is a situation that has gone unchecked for too long, and on the neighborhood's behalf, respectfully requests the board of selectmen's assistance."
And while last week's zoning board meeting was stacked with Rupert critics, there was a decidedly pro-rooster air to Tuesday's selectmen meeting. Everyone who attended called for the bird to be saved.
"With apologies to Shakespeare, I have come to praise Rupert, not to bury him," said Clark Avenue resident Nancy Gardella, taking from the Bard himself. "For Rupert is an honorable rooster, so are they are all, honorable roosters."
Ms. Gardella said a majority of the people living in the Leonard Circle area do not have a problem with the rooster or his crowing. "Rupert is an act of God. No one bought him and brought him to our neighborhood; he is no one's pet," she said. "He brings so much joy to so many of us and especially to the neighborhood children. He is warm, he takes care of himself very well, he runs with the turkeys, whom no one is catching . . . God has put him in our 'hood for a reason. God bless all creatures great and small," she said.
Ms. Gardella said Rupert often roosts in a spruce tree on the property of Angela Murphy, who has three young children who named the rooster and consider him a sort of pet.
"She has posted on her property: 'No hunting, fishing, or trespassing.' That is her property, and she has kids to watch out for. Nobody should be trying to snag Rupert out of her trees," she said.
Other neighbors spoke in support of the bird, including 11-year-old Cheyenne Cormier, who showed a cell phone photo of the rooster to the selectmen. "We know Rupert really well. He thinks he is a turkey," she said affectionately.
But selectman Jeff Kristal, also a member of the zoning board, said the town can go onto a private property to capture Rupert, because under state law a rooster is classified as a domesticated farm animal rather than a wild animal.
And in the case of Rupert, he is a domesticated farm animal without an owner.
Mr. Kristal said he searched the internet and found professional trackers who could capture the rooster and bring it safely to a farm. While he sympathized with Rupert's supporters, he noted that the bird's crowing is upsetting many of the people who live in the neighborhood.
Mr. Kristal called on the selectmen to draft a letter to animal control officer Laurie Clements, asking her to catch the rooster. "For two years now the neighbors have been putting up with that rooster crowing at 1:30 am and all the time . . . it has to stop," he said.
Selectman Tristan Israel agreed, but he noted that the board has already asked the animal control officer to catch the rooster in the past. "The problem is catching said rooster, which apparently is a wily rooster . . . I just think it's a little more complicated than that," he said.
Mr. Israel also questioned whether the town really had the right to go on someone's property to catch the rooster. "If that rooster goes on someone's property and that person is friendly to the rooster, we need to have permission to go on that person's property," he said.
"But if the rooster is on someone's property that doesn't like it and they invite someone on to catch it, they have the right to do that," he said.
In the end, selectmen compromised, sort of, agreeing to ask Ms. Clements to go after the rooster but also suggesting to Rupert's supporters that someone claim him as a pet. This would allow them to go before the zoning board for a special permit to keep the rooster on their property.
Selectmen agreed it was a difficult issue, because they sympathized with people on both sides of the debate.
"Emotionally, I'm on your guys' side, but I have heard from other people who say this, emotionally, is very disturbing to them," Mr. Israel said in closing. "That's what makes this such a very difficult situation."