Concerns are raised over growing seagull numbers on coast

John Haxby
John Haxby
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They are a familiar sight on the Yorkshire coast but concerns have been raised that the growing population of seagulls is getting out of hand.

Council bosses have had a string of complaints about the state of the bird-fouled footpaths and visitors have even reported having food snatched from their hands.

Coun Andrew Jenkinson, of Scarborough Borough Council, who is campaigning for gull numbers to be reduced, said: “There has been a problem for a number of years but this year it is very much worse. The footpaths have not only become unsightly but also smell and are dangerous if it rains because pedestrians can easily fall on the seagull mess.”

One of the biggest problems, especially in Filey and Scarborough, is gulls raiding seafront litter bins and rubbish then being strewed. “It creates a very bad image for holidaymakers to our town,” said Coun Jenkinson.

At Filey, Coun John Haxby, a member of Filey Town Council, said one family had been “terrified” when they were attacked by gulls as they ate a lunchtime snack on the seafront.

All species of gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

“This makes it illegal or intentionally to recklessly injure or kill any gull or damage or destroy an active next or its contents,” Tom Waters, a wildlife adviser for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds wildlife said.

However, he added: “The law recognises that in certain circumstances control measures may be necessary.

Simple nuisance or minor damage to property are not legally sanctioned reasons to kill gulls.

“The UK administrations can issue licences, permitting nests to be destroyed or even birds to be killed if there is no non-lethal solution, and if it is done to prevent serious damage to agriculture, the spread of disease, to preserve public health and safety, and air safety, or to conserve other wild birds.”

Several years ago, Scarborough Council was issued with a licence from the then Ministry of Agriculture to use stupefied 
bait to reduce gull populations, but protests from the public resulted in the scheme being abandoned after drugged-birds were found flying helplessly in the street.

Now, a report is being written which is due to go before the council’s scrutiny committees at a later date, which will explore ways of combatting the problem and enhancing the town centre image of Scarborough.

Comment: Page 12.