Council spends £100k to remove gulls - but menace continues

A seagull
A seagull

Councillors in Angus have admitted they are not winning a battle against ‘supergulls’ - despite spending more than £100,000 to tackle the menace.

One expert has now claimed the problem being experienced throughout the country was so bad it need Government action.

Angus Council has stopped using a falconer as this proved not to be a “cost effective” measure.

Arbroath East and Lunan Councillor Donald Morrison said much can be done by residents as the council’s measures were “limited”.

He said: “There isn’t a burgh or village around Angus which doesn’t experience a problem with gulls nesting, the noise and the mess.

“Sadly the reality, as their natural foods have declined, gulls have adapted to our society, to our environment and are feeding off our discarded food and in some cases stealing food from our hands.

“These gulls also seem to be a lot bigger and though now more an urban species they are still protected under the law so local authorities and businesses are very limited to the measures they can take to combat the menace.”

Peter Rock, Britain’s leading urban gull expert, insisted the UK Government needed to properly invest in research into the problem.

He said: “We, as a nation, can’t tackle the problem of this new kind of urban gull until we find out everything we can about them, where they go, what they do, what their behaviour is, and where they breed.”

A total of £114,749 has been spent by the Angus Council on pest control over the past five years, with £103,000 being directly spent on seagull complaints.

The authority has received more than 751 complaints and effected 1,555 treatments since 2011 - with 738 being dealt with in Arbroath, 628 in Montrose and 110 in Carnoustie.

A spokesman said it has provided a free service to remove seagull nests and eggs since 2009.

He said: “Up until 2014, we employed a falconer to fly birds of prey and disturb gulls prior to the nesting season at various locations.

“This was discontinued as part of necessary efficiencies and savings.

“By law we cannot harm or disturb chicks once the eggs have hatched.

“Once the chicks leave the nest, parent gulls can become very aggressive in a bid to protect them.

“There is nothing the council can do to prevent this as we would have to kill the chicks and that is only permissible in very exceptional circumstances.”

He said the public could help tackle the nuisance caused by gulls by not feeding them, and properly disposing of litter and food waste.

Aberdeenshire Council has spent almost £200,000 since 2010 trying to combat the nuisance birds, with yearly costs of around £2200 to deploy hawks.

Keith Bretton, the vice president of the Trust for British Ornithology, said gulls are “no longer scared” of humans.

He said: “They’ve learnt to live with us and are used to coming into contact with us. And now they’re getting into conflict with us, too.”