Vigilante action is not the answer to tackle nuisance ‘gull muggers’ blighting Yorkshire’s coastal resorts, councillors have warned, admitting their hands are tied over immediate action to ease the scourge.
Over recent years, in-depth plans have been drawn up in Scarborough to tackle nuisance seagulls, with mugging registers set up, hawks brought in and a programme agreed to destroy eggs.
Now, with a 14-month-old baby boy treated by GPs after being injured in the town centre, councillors have warned there is “nothing left in their arsenal” as the summer tourism season begins in earnest.
“We have a dispersal programme, we have people out there taking eggs from nests,” said Coun Bill Chatt, Scarborough Council’s cabinet member for public health.
“We are spending more than £36,000 a year on tackling this. We are working on a long-term solution. We have nothing left in our arsenal. We can’t, with any conscience, kill any living animal. That is not the answer.
“My concern is people taking the law into their own hands. Recently we had someone killing a seagull with a crossbow. People shouldn’t be taking this into their own hands.”
The herring gulls along Yorkshire’s coast have become notorious in recent years for the increasingly bold ‘gull muggings’, swooping on unsuspecting visitors to steal food.
In 2015, a taskforce was set up, with action plans put into place last year focused on disruption and dispersal, destroying eggs and using birds of prey to frighten the gulls away.
But earlier this month, a seagull was found dead in a car park in the town, struck down by a crossbow. And, amid claims a 14-month-old baby was injured in on Thursday, there are renewed calls for action to curb the birds’ behaviour.
Coun Chatt, recognising the challenge they pose, said he could understand parents’ horror at the prospect of the birds’ increasingly bold behaviour.
But, he warned, the authority was limited as to any further immediate action it could take.
“The seagulls see human beings as a food source,” he said. “I’ve seen a seagull swoop down and steal a gingerbread man from a child.
“When they see a 20kg bird coming towards them that’s as heavy as a sack of potatoes, that can be scary. And this year there does seem to be an awful lot of them around.
“The reality is we can’t do anything more – we live on the coast and we’ve got to manage our neighbours.
“We can’t cull them – I wouldn’t support that anyway.
“All we can do is make it difficult for the seagulls to be in the town centre. These are the tools we have at our disposal.
“Hopefully they will be moved back to the cliffs which is where they belong.”