Council appeal for public help as annual ‘Seagull War’ escalates

Discarded food a major issue in ‘Seagull Wars’

Moray Council environmental health officials say that there is little they can do in dealing with the public fears over the increasing number of attacks reported by seagulls.

The local authority is appealing to the public not to feed gulls or discard food in a manner that encourages them to feed in public parks and gardens.

An online campaign was launched this week by Elgin resident Clarky Mitchell, whose personal account of attacks on picnicking families on the Plainstones and Cooper Park in Elgin sparked support from hundreds of people relating similar instances throughout the region.

Mr Mitchell’s post to the Moray Council Facebook page drew hundreds of harrowing reports of gulls in search of food attacking families in their own gardens, on streets and in public parks.

It is an annual issue that increases during the seagull breeding season and has been made much worse this summer because long sunny spells have brought more families into the open – with gulls seeing their picnic as an easy target.

Hundreds have now called for a cull on seagulls – but following a meeting with environmental health officials at Moray Council on Wednesday, Mr Mitchell had to admit that there was no easy solution to the growing problem.

He said: “We had a good and productive meeting when officials explained that there is an ‘open licence’ issued by Scottish Natural Heritage that allows anyone to kill or take certain birds for the preservation of public health, public safety and preventing the spread of disease.

“The environmental health department say that they will be contacting the main owners of land where gulls are known to breed with a view to reducing the next batch.”

Mr Mitchell added that officials emphasised to him that mass complaints on social media networks were not individually recorded and that members of the public had to contact the council directly to have their case documented so that, hopefully, more action could be taken.

He added: “It was agreed that the Council would arrange extra rubbish bin clearances in parks and public areas daily so as to deter the gulls.

“They are also putting in place signs asking the public not to feed gulls.”

Last night a spokesman for Moray Council reiterated that gulls were protected, saying: “All wild birds in Scotland are given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

“Some rare, threatened or vulnerable species are given extra protection, for instance against disturbance during the breeding season.

“This does not mean that action cannot be taken when birds are causing a problem. General licences are in force to permit certain actions which would, otherwise, constitute offences under the act.”

A full description of the action that the public can take against protected gulls can be found on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.

The spokesman added: “We would strongly urge members of the public not to feed seagulls as this is a major cause of their reliance on humans to provide them with a food source.

“I would add that we do take full account of comments made to us by the public through our social media pages and that we fully recognise this is an issue of major concern for people in Moray.”

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