Will bold new signs help tackle gull problem?

Cllr Bill Chatt takes Steven the Seagull to task over loitering for scraps of food on South Bay Beach.
Cllr Bill Chatt takes Steven the Seagull to task over loitering for scraps of food on South Bay Beach.

New outdoor signs have been introduced in a bid to combat gull swoops and muggings on the coast.

Herring Gulls have gained a notorious reputation in recent years for their opportunistic ‘muggings’ for food, especially when raising their chicks. This behaviour has been exacerbated by people actively feeding the gulls and leaving litter and food waste on beaches, instead of making use of the ample supply of nearby bins.

Scarborough Borough Council's new signs, which come in two designs featuring bold illustrations and simple but strong messages, aim to curb human behaviour by drawing people’s attention to the consequences of their actions.

One design shows a picture of a teenage boy being swooped on by a Herring Gull alongside a ‘stop attacks - never feed the gulls’ message while the other design shows a group of Herring Gulls swooping on a part eaten box of chips abandoned on a beach, carrying a ‘stop scavenging - never drop litter’ message.

The signs have been erected in high footfall areas along the seafront in Filey and Scarborough and close to the harbour and piers in Whitby, specifically targeting places where people congregate to eat takeaway food and access beaches.

Jonathan Bramley, Scarborough Borough Council’s Environment and Regulation Manager said: “It has become increasingly evident in the last few years that there are a number of factors contributing to the behaviour of the Herring Gulls and the problems associated with them.

"While controlling egg and nest numbers to start to bring the Herring Gull population down to a more manageable number is one solution, we have to tackle one of the biggest problems, which is our human behaviour and how it is teaching the gulls that taking human food is acceptable.”

Similar designs in the form of small posters on bins were trialled by the council last summer. Following feedback, the designs were improved to make them clearer and more eye-catching before being turned into large signs.

Cllr Bill Chatt, Scarborough Borough Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Housing added: “I urge people, whether living at the coast or visiting, to take note of the new signs. Don’t be tempted to feed the gulls, no matter how much they try to persuade you and please remember that the beach is not a dustbin that will simply clear itself after you have left.

"Please, please, please pick up your litter, including unwanted food and either place it in one of the bins nearby or take it home with you to dispose of.

"Tackling the nuisance caused by gulls isn’t just the job of the council or local businesses; it is a collective responsibility that we all have to commit to if we want to bring about positive changes in the coming months and years.”

More information about gulls and how people can report Herring Gull ‘muggings’ to the council, can be found at scarborough.gov.uk/seagulls