Teens Stomp on Peacock's Back for a Feather at New Mexico Zoo

New Mexico police are investigating after two teenagers were accused of stomping on the back of a peacock and stealing one its feathers inside an Albuquerque zoo.

Officials from ABQ BioPark are now reviewing surveillance footage in an attempt to identify the teenagers, who were pictured by another customer while holding a feather plucked from the free-roaming animal, KRQE reported. They could be charged with felony animal abuse.

A witness—named only as Anna—told KRQE: "It happened pretty quickly. The male stomped on the back of the peacock, the peacock cried out, the feather came out and he picked it up."

The attack happened last Wednesday close to a playground at the zoo, which is located along the Rio Grande River. An image of the teens was uploaded to social media last week but removed by the witness after it attracted a slew of threatening comments directed at the alleged culprits. Versions were still online, however, published to a local crime watch Facebook account.

Dr. Baird Fleming, the director of the zoo, noted that the facility has signs that urge customers not to chase the birds. "Remember, the zoo is their home," one sign reads. Fleming told KRQE: "We don't really want people interacting with our peacocks. They are really just to look at."

The New Mexico State University has said online that under state law felony animal abuse carries a sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of $5,000, followed by one year of parole.

"If you are found guilty of cruelty to animals resulting in the death, intentional mutilation, or injury of an animal, in most cases you can be charged with extreme cruelty to animals," the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences explained in a fact sheet.

In recent years, lawmakers in the state have pushed for harsher animal cruelty penalties. House Bill 210, sponsored by Rep. Daymon Ely, was submitted back in 2017—but has since stalled.

The witness to the Albuquerque Zoo peacock incident told KRQE she hopes the two teens will be caught and banned. "If you can't be trusted around the wildlife or the animals here in the park then you shouldn't be here. It's not normal behavior and it's not OK," she said. The zoo security guards were too late to catch the suspects—but local police officers are investigating.

In June, two wild peacocks, known as Bert and Ernie to some residents of an Oregon neighborhood, disappeared amid complaints that they had caused property damage.

A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokesperson later confirmed the two animals had been captured and "humanely euthanized." News of the deaths sparked significant debate online. "The USDA can stay the hell out of my neighborhood!" one person fumed on Facebook at the time, before adding: "Our neighborhood peacocks are annoyingly loud but they are characters!"

An Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is pictured at the garden of the Museum Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, on July 4, 2017. A peacock was attacked while roaming inside an Albuquerque zoo last week, according to a witness. PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty