What’s the answer? Fight or flight?
Thursday 23 February 2017 00:00 GMT
The seaside and cities of Britain are under siege by wild and ferocious predators. Birds are wreaking havoc on innocent members of the public with indiscriminate attacks. Some fearful citizens have even reportedly taken to carrying firearms for protection – from gulls.
For the seagulls’ list of victims seems to grow all the time. Tourists daring to eat ice creams in daylight, fans of fish and chip takeaways, festival goers, school children, cyclists, tortoises, Chihuahuas, supermarket customers, are all seen as fair game from the skies.
So serious is the airborne threat that the Conservative MP for one south-west England constituency called for a parliamentary debate after a friend lost his fish and chips to gulls. Even the notoriously tough South Africa rugby team was accused of being unnerved as their British coastal training ground was dive-bombed during the 2015 World Cup. National newspapers have featured photos of the birds swallowing rats, pigeons, and in one case reported the violent eating of a starling, as “the poor starling chicks were forced to look on”.
In 2015 the then prime minister, David Cameron, called for a “big conversation” about the challenge and pledged a quarter of a million pounds to fight back, egged on by the then Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster. The gull has Britain rattled, and its enemies appear to crumble. Neither the £250,000 nor Foster survived that year’s general election.
The creatures supposedly terrorising towns and capturing the public imagination are two particular species, the herring gull, Larus argentatus, and its very close cousin the lesser black backed gull, Larus fuscus. Both are large, feisty, greedy generalists happy to pull a worm from a wet lawn or dive bomb a jittery tourist into dropping their lunch.