Public safety and disease can open door to gull cull

THE SEAGULL menace continues to occupy our readers’ minds, but a call from reader Brian Field has made us realise that culling gulls is not quite the bureaucratic nightmare that we had thought.

He directed us to the BASC (The British Association for Shooting and Conservation) where we were made acquainted with Scottish Government’s General Licence No. 03/2011 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to protect public health, public safety and to prevent the spread of disease.

It is a popular misconception that a licence to cull gulls (or any other pest bird) is held by an individual or a council. It is in fact held by the Government and it is the Government which renews it each year.

What the legislation says, in a nutshell, is that after every non-lethal method of controlling a pest (in this case herring gulls), has failed and a public health or safety issue remains, then shooting by a qualified and licensed person may take place.

Paragraph four of the legislation states: The methods of killing or taking which may be used under this licence, except where further restrictions ... apply, include:

• Pricking of eggs

• Oiling of eggs with a product approved for use within Scotland

• Destruction of eggs and nests

• Shooting with any firearm, including semi-automatic firearms, shotguns or air weapons

• Targeted falconry

The Review has not been able to find anything which says that gulls are immune from shooting once their eggs have hatched, as is popularly believed.

The legislation goes on to list the birds that may be controlled under the licence.

They are: great black-backed gull, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, collared dove, feral pigeon, woodpigeon, carrion crow, hooded crow, jackdaw, magpie and rook.

Paragraph 20 states: “Where any action is taken against lesser black-backed gull or herring gull under this licence, the licensee shall, as soon as the action is completed or by 31 January 2012 at the latest, submit to the Scottish Government, Natural Resources Division, 1 - D North, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ, a report detailing the number of such birds, or their eggs, killed, taken or destroyed in each month and the reason why such action was taken in each month. The methods of control used against these birds in each month, and the locations of any such actions shall also be detailed.”

Clearly, anyone who proposes to shoot birds would be wise indeed to make their intentions known to local police and, importantly, to be able to assure them that they have read and understood the terms of the licence allowing them to undertake any such cull. It is also essential that anyone doing so has the permission of the owner or occupier of the land in question and can use any firearms safely.

The Montrose Review emphasises that it is the responsibility and duty of anyone wishing to shoot gulls to ensure that they are doing so completely legally.

Mr Field was concerned that the impression had been given in an article that someone defending themselves from an attack might be liable to prosecution if, for example, by flailing an umbrella round their head in their defence they killed a gull which was attacking them.

This is not so and nor was it our intention to imply that it was.

r Shortly after completing this article, the writer visited the seafront play area, and was astounded to see a gull standing the middle of a family’s picnic things, selecting half a sandwich and flying off with it.