Cllr Godfrey Allanson (Con) told members of Scarborough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Board that both he and his granddaughter had been ‘mugged’ by birds in Westborough in the town in two separate incidents.
He said: “I’d been to a meeting at the council that had gone late, maybe it was overview, I went to Cooplands and got myself some cheese straws, I got one out the bag and the seagull came down and snatched it. It was scary I can say that.”
Cllr Allanson said the attack on his granddaughter had left her “frightened”.
He was speaking as the scrutiny board debated how to tackle the issue of gull attacks on the coast.
Gulls have ‘mugged’ 125 people in the Scarborough borough since 2016, council figures have revealed.
In total, 92 of the attacks reported have taken place in Scarborough, with 25 in Whitby and a further eight in the resort of Filey
Since 2017, the council has employed a firm to remove eggs and nests from locations in the town centres to try and move the gull populations back towards nesting on cliffs rather than on buildings and other structures.
In total, 921 nests and 1,501 eggs have been removed.
Despite this, the instances of gull attacks, or “muggings” as the council refers to them as they often involve the birds snatching food from the victim, have remained constant.
The council believes that this is down to more people reporting incidents using an online form that was set up by the authority in 2016.
However, a report from Hull University, commissioned by the council, found that the egg and nest removal “did not result in the presence of fewer gulls” in Scarborough town centre and the seafront in 2018. Instead, it found that the weather conditions were more likely to have contributed to the reduction in the number of nests found in the area.
Board member Cllr Tony Randerson (Lab) said the issue with seagulls had been debated since the early 90s by the authority and that fines for people who feed the birds may be a potential solution.
He said: “It is not just the attacks that cause problems but one of the main concerns I have raised to me by the public is the damage caused to properties by gulls, to residential roofs for example.
“I’m not sure what the solution is but perhaps fixed penalty notices are something we have to consider.”
Cllr Janet Jefferson (Ind) added: “It’s not just visitors feeding the gulls it’s the residents too.
“Some of them even give the gulls names.”
The overview and scrutiny board backed recommendations to continue the gull dispersal programme in 2019.
The council will also contact the major suppliers of chip boxes to the borough’s local food establishments to explore the possibility of having key messages, such as “don’t feed the gulls” and “don’t drop your litter”, printed on these boxes so that they are seen by customers buying takeaway foods.