Licence to cull?

WITH the irritation of seagulls in Angus seeming to increase each year, the local authority is looking for ways to better manage the situation.

The problem of seagulls is not a new one and it was as far back as the mid 1980s that the council first tried to tackle the situation in the coastal areas of the burgh. A free nest/egg removal service was offered in Arbroath from 1986 to 1996 and a significant decrease of seagull activity was noted.

Although the service was discontinued in 1996 it was reintroduced to include the whole county in 2009.

In a report to Angus Council, Richard Stiff, chief executive, outlined the current problems gulls are causing within the wider community and some suggested methods of controlling the birds. He said: “Whilst there is no scientific or verifiable count of gulls in the area, it is estimated by infrastructure services that there are approximately 5000 breeding pairs of gulls in Angus which compares to an estimate of 9,500 breeding pairs in Aberdeen City.

“Many people who have gulls on or near their property find they cause annoyance. Commonly cited problems include: noise caused by calling gulls, mess caused by their droppings, damage to property caused by blocked drains etc. and diving and swooping on people and pets, particularly during nesting season.”

Current methods of controlling the situation include raising awareness through various mediums such as web content, booklets and posters, a free nest removal service, flying of birds of prey to deter gulls in urban areas during nesting times, frequent emptying of litter bins, used of wheeled bins for domestic and trade waste, proofing vulnerable council properties and the possession of a licence to cull which has not yet been utilised.

In addition to the methods currently in place a number of new options for consideration were put to the council.

Mr Stiff said: “In order to identify actions and developments that might be considered, officers have undertaken some research into the approaches followed by other councils and private sector organisations.

“Consideration has also been given to ways in which the council’s current activities could be developed to achieve greater effect.”

Among the options explored is culling, however, there are factors to take into account. Mr Stiff said: “The council would need to clearly demonstrate that all other means of control had been tried and exhausted and critically that there was a risk to public health or safety.

“Should the council undertake a cull it should be noted that culling is ordinarily done by shooting or by netting and neck ringing. Neither is a particularly effective means of population reduction, and both are likely to attract adverse criticism from both the public and wildlife pressure groups.”

Other options include contraception, better proofing, waste management, improved communication and the development of the nest removal service and use of birds of prey.

Mr Stiff concluded: “The fact that worldwide the gull population is in overall decline requires a response which seeks to balance appropriate intervention and enforcement whilst securing a harmony with the gull population.

“Angus Council can point to a proportionate and well resources set of actions to addressing public concerns raised by this issue and whilst the report sets out measurements for improvement members are asked to note that gulls are a factor of coastal life and that every effort is being made to properly manage the situation.”