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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Menace of the Whitehaven seagulls

GREEDY seagulls are not the problem in Whitehaven – the public are – says an animal charity.

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Chief suspect: Eddie the Seagull!

By Mark White

The birds have been ripping bin bags open and strewing litter across the streets. People have also complained about being attacked by seagulls on the harbour and having food stolen.

The RSPCA says seagulls in the town are only acting naturally and it’s the public that should be taking more care with the birds.

The protected species are often deemed a nuisance but the charity says they just need a “little understanding”.

Sara Howlett, of the charity, said: “Unfortunately, every year the RSPCA receives many calls about gulls which have been persecuted and the victim of abusive attacks.”

Gulls and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to intentionally kill, take or injure wild birds and action can only be taken against them under licence.

“You can’t blame them for not knowing the difference between scraps willingly offered and your own bag of chips. They are simply wild animals following their instincts to find food,” she added. “They don’t necessarily know that their nest is blocking your gutter and like any protective mum, their swooping is often just a way of keeping their babies safe.

“The RSPCA believes that deterrents and non-lethal methods of control are far better at helping to reduce problems. Not feeding the gulls and disposing of rubbish properly is one thing we can all do to prevent gulls from causing a nuisance.

“Blocking off areas where gulls normally nest outside of the breeding season will also help to reduce the problems.”

Celia MacKenzie, chief executive of The Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners, said: “The public have to be aware these are wild animals. They have become lazy because people feed them and they don’t know the difference between food they are given and your own private food.”

Seagull mating season is roughly early summer and fledgling season is late summer and Mrs MacKenzie warns the birds can be aggressive and defensive at these times.

“You have to be careful about going too close to them and letting your children go near them. These are wild animals and must be treated as such,” said Mrs MacKenzie.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that only someone with a general or a specific licence can take any actions against the birds or is permitted to carry out an otherwise prohibited action.

Whitehaven company AA Pestroy has this licence, along with many others.

Gordon Thomson, from the company, said: “If the seagulls are either a danger to anyone, threatening to contaminate or considered a nuisance, for example, breaking into bins and attracting rodents then we can take appropriate measures.

“If the council feels that the seagulls fall into any of these categories then they could contact us for our services,” he added.

Coun Peter Kane said: “We realise seagulls, whilst a defining feature of any seaside town, do cause problems.

“Unfortunately the law makes it difficult to cull them, as they’re a protected species.

“It is illegal to remove nests and eggs or to kill birds because they are disliked, considered noisy or thought to be damaging to property. Applications to cull are normally refused.

“One major thing the community can do to help is to eliminate the birds’ food sources.

“We’d also ask anyone who can, to come and ask for a wheeled bin rather than bags. They are much more effective at keeping the gulls out and where practical we will accommodate bins.”

He added: “Our staff can also advise building owners how to stop birds nesting there in the future. Spikes, mesh and other low-cost measures can be effective.

“Seagull-proof bags are expensive, time-consuming and untested, and we are not using them at this time – though we are always happy to consider new solutions.”

Have your say

It was sad and sickening to witness a pensioner sitting on the bench outside of WH smiths in Whitehaven last week. The poor old girl was in a state of shock after a town centre seagull messed all down the front of her face.Helpful locals were keen to assist in cleaning her up.All the lady could do was sit and cry in shock and panic....absolutely disgusted that the town cant get on top of this problem.
Egg pricking at the start of the nesting season followed by trapping with mesh cages and culling once the eggs are being sat....thats how theyre controlled.The town is like Glastonbury every morning at 5am....Its an absolute disgrace with the Gulls totally wrecking every bag in site to feed the newly hatched chicks.
I look forward to a future town with not one single gull in sight , get rid of every single one of them.

Posted by Norman young on 20 July 2014 at 11:32

if people weren't so irresponsible with their rubbish there wouldn't be such an issue with seagulls. i live in one of the central areas where seagulls attack bags regularly. residents leave them strewn across public areas and don't bother to clean up any mess, attracting more seagulls and rodents.

Posted by shivversj on 14 July 2014 at 20:23

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