Food swoops: brazen gulls striking at will

Horrified at state of some of Scarborough's streets caused by seagulls.
Horrified at state of some of Scarborough's streets caused by seagulls.

Widespread support has greeted the call for action to clear the streets of Scarborough of gull mess and to protect the public from food-grabbing swoops.

The stance by The Scarborough News has earned public backing and support from business owners and key leaders.

We this week call again on the local authorities to announce a new strategy that will more effectively deal with the growing problem.

At the weekend, both at South Bay in Scarborough and alongside Whitby harbour, gulls swooped like vultures on people eating on the beach or as they walk along.

The gulls are so fast and brazen that, in Saturday’s swoops, one took its time to gulp down a large chunk of fish in front of a young woman from whom it had grabbed the food as she was about to put it in her mouth.

It then looked for more victims, as other gulls gathered on a roof nearby. In another case, a woman on the beach had to abandon her makeshift picnic on the sands when about eight gulls gathered and flapped for a feast.

The food grabs will soon cause serious injury and the situation cannot continue.

Gulls are part of seaside life but there needs to be better management – not, as the borough council responded last week, just asking business people to install netting for buildings.

Action in the 70s and 80s helped to reduce the gull situation to better levels.

Lack of effective action on the basis of legal restrictions regarding kittiwakes has been called into question by bird control companies who say the borough council could tackle the vermin aspect on the grounds of public health and safety.

In the meantime, the lack of will to deal with the issue has led to filthy and stained town centre streets, with the stench of ammonia in main shopping areas.

The Scarborough News has set up a petition to campaign for action to better manage the population of seabirds including kittiwakes for health, safety and environmental reasons.

If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures the government must respond and if it reaches 100,000 signatures it must be considered for debate in Parliament.

The petition will be live on in the coming week for people to view and sign.

John Senior, of South Bay Traders’ Association, said: “We would support any active, humane, legal way to manage the gull issue and to reduce the incidences which are causing wide concerns. We would work with the council and other groups to find a way forward.”

The Scarborough public in letters and comments have also spoken out in favour of action.

One man said: “As a teenager I lived in Scarborough and do not recall the problems with aggressive herring gulls and kittiwakes nesting on buildings and bridges. I returned last year aged 60 and something has changed. Shop and business owners should be required by the council to keep their properties clean and erect bird barriers.”

Another resident said: “We are clearly starting to see a shift in aggression from these birds. Numbers are too high and people are afraid to sit out in the street enjoying the food and sights Scarborough has to offer.”