The relationship between seagulls and residents in Scarborough, Yorkshire

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Seagulls at Whitby

The relationship between seagulls and people in Scarborough, Yorkshire can be a little bit stressful because the seagulls are quite aggressive, confident and bold and they like to eat chips and ice cream. They swoop down to steal the ice cream from kids. Some time ago I wrote about a man who struck back at a seagull who stole one of his chips. I think he killed the seagulls and he was prosecuted successfully. There should be a desire to cohabit with gulls. Seagulls are not on the list of birds that can be culled under licences issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Seagulls at Whitby

Seagulls at Whitby. Picture: Ross Parry

In this human to bird conflict in Yorkshire, particularly it seems at the seaside, Scarborough Council have come up with the idea of allocating grants to residents who wish to seagull-proof their homes. The council is prepared to pay for half the cost. The scheme coincides with the end of the breeding season. They can add netting, repellent gels and spikes to the outside of their homes.

One citizen of the area said that there are too many seagulls. She is Ros Fox, 69, a retired bed and breakfast owner. She and her former council leader husband no longer eat alfresco at their home which is near the seafront. The seagulls know that it is feeding time when they do, so they’ve given up. They perch at her barbecue ready to pounce on the chips.

The chief executive of Natural England, Marian Spain, said that the populations of herring and black-backed gulls have declined significantly recently and they are considered at risk. The people of Scarborough might disagree because they think there are too many of them. Perhaps they have declined in some coastal areas but they’ve moved inland where they are more numerous where there is foood. For example, the gull population near Worcester has increased by 440 since 2006. Gloucester docks have seen an increase from three pairs of lesser black-backed gulls in 1967 to 2,000 pairs in 2004.

Some people regard them as vicious and angry and others are more sympathetic. For example, Sandra Turner who works as a gift kiosk said that seagulls are the victims of a decline in fishing in the area. Whereas at one time they fed on the fish, flying after the boats – a common sight to many – now they have to feed on chips and ice cream inland and you can’t blame them for just trying to survive. They are hungry. However, Sandra is in the minority.

Another resident said that the idea of giving grants is not a good idea. He wants better waste bins. What he’s getting at is that waste bins are a source of food to seagulls and if they are of a better quality preventing access to the food it may deter the seagulls. His name is Liam Manship, 27, and he says that the seagulls are no worse than other nuisances such as tourists and rats!

They have tried birds of prey to deter them without success as there are too many of them and they are too confident.