Plastic owls, birds of prey and swapping eggs for dummy eggs among methods being used
Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Mon 20 May 2019 18.50 BSTLast modified on Mon 20 May 2019 21.10 BST
It’s not just your chips that are threatened by seagulls at the British seaside: increasingly, the gull menace is hitting taxpayers in their pockets too, as research shows local councils are spending hundreds of thousands trying to control the birds.
Waste management practices are partly to blame, as less frequent collection of bins gives the scavengers plenty of access to free meals, in turn encouraging them into urban areas. The problem has escalated in the last 15 years, according to Sarah Trotter, an assistant professor of law at the London School of Economics, who has written two papers on the subject. The birds have been blamed for attacking pets and people in towns all around the UK’s coastline, and sometimes even inland.
Trotter cites the example of Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, which spent £263,000 between 2009 and 2016 on control measures for the gulls. Aberdeen spent £27,000 in 2015-16, down from nearly £90,000 a few years previously. Even less-affected councils have been spending £10,000 a year, often with little to show for their efforts. There are no publicly available national figures for how much is spent on the problem, but a sample of several councils suggests the sums may run into hundreds of thousands a year across the country, and in a few years can quickly add up to a drain on scarce resources in seaside towns.
Perhaps even worse is the disruption caused by the birds, and not only to tourism. Trotter cites cases where gulls have caused delays to postal deliveries and provoked residents into prowling the streets with guns to kill the birds, and where droppings have caused a hazard to pedestrians by making footpaths slippery. In one case in Aberdeen, a particularly troublesome seagull was described as being “the size of a large dog”.