Seagulls in Cornwall inspire hate campaign
People have always had a difficult relationship with seagulls. The birds are persistent and daring in their search for food and this brings them into close contact with humans – very close contact! Gulls swooping to steal chips and ice cream are common sights and the birds are now hated by the residents and business owners of many coastal towns.
Unfortunately, some people are now fighting back and are actively attacking the birds. Cornwall has seen a series of disturbing attacks and this is a trend which must be stopped. The RSPCA is asking us all to treat seagulls with respect and to use non-violent means to prevent them from stealing our food.
Last week onlookers in St Ives were shocked when a man violently kicked and stamped on a seagull after it tried to steal his chips. He cornered the bird before assaulting it and distressed witnesses then took the gull to a vet. The bird had a broken wing which could not be fixed and so it had to be put to sleep.
A few days later, three teenagers were seen luring seagulls into the roads of Penzance using bread. The gulls were landing in the path of oncoming vehicles with one being killed at the scene and another later being put down. The actions of the youngsters endangered human life as well as that of the birds with drivers swerving to avoid the gulls in the road.
Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and so it is illegal to interfere with, injure or kill the birds. Devon and Cornwall police are taking the incidents very seriously and all such crimes are investigated by the force’s dedicated wildlife crime officer.
Seagulls in decline
Seagulls are now in decline and the RSPCA is calling for people to think carefully about how they treat the birds. Herring gulls are of conservation concern but have been the victims of abuse. There are ways to minimise the impact of gulls on our day-to-day lives. It is particularly important to store rubbish in bins rather than leaving out bin bags which can be ripped open by the birds. All rubbish is the responsibility of home owners until it has been collected. The negligent handling of rubbish leads to more gulls being drawn closer to people.
The local authority in Falmouth is providing seagull-proof sacks free of charge to residents. These robust bags hold up to six black bin bags and keep the gulls at bay. The bags may soon be distributed throughout the county.
Many business owners are concerned that seagulls are impacting tourism. Some people won’t travel to the county because they have experienced nuisance gulls. But revenge attacks on the birds aren’t the answer. It is vital that everyone stores their rubbish correctly and that no food is on display when accessible to the birds. If the birds don’t learn to associate people with food, they won’t exhibit the nuisance behaviour that has inspired the latest series of assaults.