Aggressive seagulls that steal chips and sandwiches, “dive bomb” pensioners and attack small pets, are a menace in towns across the UK.
With even the Prime Minister David Cameron saying a “big conversation” is needed about the issue of marauding gulls, one “under siege” seaside town has come up with what it hopes is a novel solution to deal with the protected birds.
Truro City Council in Cornwall has bought a special “anti-gull” paint which it hopes will prevent the birds from landing in built-up areas.
The aptly named Flock Off is described as a visually intense paint that reflects the sun’s rays, in effect blinding birds that venture near it and deterring them from swooping down and landing.
According to Truro deputy mayor Rob Nolan, the action is needed because the Cornwall city is “under siege”. “It’s the main subject people complain about,” he said.
While Mr Nolan agreed that painting lamp posts with the special paint would not necessarily cure the problem, it might provide visitors with some relief from the reign of terror in recent weeks, saying it was “something the council can do for the price of a few tins of paint”.
The paint will be used on lamp posts around the Lemon Quay area of Truro, a move that follows David Cameron’s admission that “there is a problem”, during a visit to Cornwall at the weekend.
“I think a big conversation needs to happen about this and frankly the people we need to listen to are people who really understand this issue in Cornwall, and the potential effects it is having,” he told BBC Radio Cornwall.
Last week angry gulls reportedly killed a pet tortoise named Stig in the back garden of his home in Cornwall. Stig’s owner Jan Byrne, 43, from Liskeard, likened the incident to a “scene from a horror movie”.
A chihuahua puppy was killed by gulls in Honiton, Devon, in May, and last week an eight-year-old Yorkshire terrier named Roo was pecked to death in Newquay, Cornwall, in full view of his owner’s children.
In a suspected backlash, a poisoned seagull was found dumped at a police station in Bridport, Dorset, on Saturday, causing an investigation to be launched into what the RSPCA referred to as a “senseless” crime. All gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – it is illegal to injure any species of gull or damage an active nest. Grahame Madge, RSPB spokesman, said of the recent incidents involving pets: “This is not a change in seagull behaviour. We are talking about three tragic incidents where gulls have reportedly been responsible… but this is not an indication that the species is becoming more aggressive.”
He added that a decline in the Herring Gull population – the population has fallen by 50 per cent in the last 30 years – and a scarcity of food out at sea was responsible for the increasing number of gull incidents. “The decline in numbers means that more gulls are nesting in towns and cities – they are scavengers by nature and have adapted their habits in order to find food.”
Mr Madge emphasised that the attacks have occurred in what is “peak gull season”, when adults are protective of their young and more aggressive. “We’re quite alarmed by people calling for a cull,” he said.
“Population control would only create a vacuum for more gulls to come in from afar. We don’t want these gulls to be demonised, they are part of the seaside experience”.Independent