Special gull task group set up to tackle angry birds

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A special group is being set up to try to solve the seagull nuisance in Whitby – but the borough council says its hands are tied.

The population of birds in the borough has reached its highest ever levels and there are 
increasing numbers of incidents where people have been attacked by gulls for their food as they walk down the street. There are reports that the birds are moving inland.

Andrew Kelly said his young daughter was sitting in their back garden eating her tea when a seagull – a herring gull – swooped down and took her food.

Mandi Ayres was visiting the town and enjoying some chips earlier this month when she had to fight off a gull trying to nick a chip, and both of Penny Mason’s daughters had doughnuts stolen out of their hands while they ate.

At a council meeting on Monday the authority’s Resources Scrutiny Committee heard a report on the winged menaces but says because culling is now illegal there is little it can do.

At the last count in 2001 there were 1,500 breeding pairs of gulls in the borough and it is thought that figure has now certainly increased.

Andy Skelton, the council’s director of service delivery, said: “There has not been a count since then but as someone who was here during the cull I would say that to my eye there are more birds now than there were in 2001.”

Back in 1978 the borough council used narcotics in food to cull them but this was stopped and made illegal after public outcry. He added that in the past humane measures hadn’t worked and the population was growing.

The task group will now look at educating visitors about why they shouldn’t feed the birds and if this doesn’t work enforcement through fines is also possible.

Cllr Dorothy Clegg said: “We need to tell people that it may be fun to throw chips in the air and watch birds grab them but when they go home we are the ones that have to live with the gulls when the next person is not so willing to give up their food.”

However, other councillors feel fines will drive people away and it was something people living in the borough had to deal with.

The first recorded seabird nesting in urban areas of the borough was recorded in Whitby in 1942.

The gull task group will report back later in the year.