Seagulls: a licence to kill

Seagull menace on the seafront.Picture Richard Ponter 133113e
Seagull menace on the seafront.Picture Richard Ponter 133113e

Fed-up residents have been handed a “licence to kill” Scarborough’s dive-bombing seagulls.

Natural England has released a form which allows people to legally destroy herring gulls’ nests and eggs.

A campaigning councillor says the licence is the biggest breakthrough yet in the fight to curb Scarborough’s out-of-control gull population.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” said Cllr Andrew Jenkinson.

It comes at the end of another summer season plagued with gull attacks on the seafront, with the beaked bandits swooping on holidaymakers and fouling the seafront.

“It’s too late to do something for this summer, but this is our chance to act now and ensure we are ready to act for next summer and finally nip the numbers in the bud,” added the Newby member.

The general licence allows any authorised person to remove eggs or nests from their land, effectively allowing personal culls.

And it’s one of several new ideas floated to try and curb numbers.

Other ideas set to go before the council in the future include:

* Using “anti-seagull” drones to sterilise eggs laid in hard-to-reach nests

* Painting pavement murals on the seafront to warn tourists not to feed gulls

* Petitioning the Government for a gull cull

Councillor Jenkinson said he plans on floating those ideas before the authority ahead of next summer, but it’s the form he feels could make the biggest difference.

Available from the Natural England website, it allows the landowner - or someone with the landowner’s permission such as a tenant - to rid the property of nests and eggs.

Without the licence that would be illegal.

The licence can only be allowed, Natural England say, to “preserve public health and safety” and can’t just be used by someone because they are sick of the birds.

It can be downloaded and used instantly without the need of applying, as long as you meet its conditions and follow instructions, although it can only be used on herring gulls and not kittiwakes.

But one councillor already has some concerns about the licence.

“I wouldn’t be happy with the idea of nests being removed,” said Dilys Cluer, leader of Scarborough Council’s Green Party group.

She admits the gull problem needs addressing, but fears the licence could be a step too far.

“I think stopping them nesting before hand by placing spikes and what not is a much better way of dealing with this rather than waiting for eggs to be laid.

“I think it could be a bit hard to prove a nest is a health and safety risk - that risk comes later when the young are fledging and quite aggressive.

“But preventive measures are, in my opinion, a better way of tackling this.”

The gull issue has raged in Scarborough for years, but has recently picked up momentum as the birds have become more aggressive and violent in their quest to feed.

Recently Prime Minister David Cameron chimed in on the debate, after a dog was attacked and killed by ravenous gulls, saying it was now time to have a “big conversation” about the birds.