Published: 09/09/2017 07:32 - Updated: 08/09/2017 12:42

Battle lines drawn over gull invasion

A FIGHT-back is set to be launched next spring against the seagull invasion of Elgin. 

Shining lasers at the birds is just one of the methods being investigated by the Elgin Bid group to deter the birds.

The town centre management group says it is acting because of rising gull numbers and their increasingly aggressive and predatory behaviour. 

Stressing that using lasers is just one option being investigated, Bid (Business Improvement District) manager Gill Neill said: "The last thing we want to do is to hurt the birds, but encouraging them away from the town centre is actually the kindest thing to do. 

"Seagulls belong on cliff tops, not in town centres. 

"There’s also evidence that the diet on which they are existing in urban areas is really bad for them. They were not designed to eat sandwiches." 

Mrs Neill admitted that figures do not exist to prove the point categorically, but stated her belief that seagull numbers have risen steadily in recent years. 

She said: "I think if you were to ask most people, they would tell you there are more of them now than there ever were in the past." 

Mrs Neill says that gulls are similar to salmon in the sense they also return to where they were born in order to breed. 

She stated that the aim of the clampdown would be to discourage as many birds as possible from laying their eggs on the town’s roof tops. 

Elgin Bid is currently looking at quotes from three companies for combatting the bird menace. 

The method with the lasers works by shining them in the air around the seagulls. This is said to make them feel threatened enough that they fly away, but leaves them unharmed. 

The clampdown next spring had been announced in the light of several reported cases where food has been snatched from people’s hands. 

Announcing it at a meeting of Moray Council’s economic development committee on Tuesday morning, Mrs Neill said that there was a lot of support among the Elgin business community. 

She added: "Seagulls cause damage to buildings and they leave a mess. That’s why we want to use humane methods to encourage them to stay away." 

Also speaking at the meeting, council leader George Alexander stated the clampdown was "music to my ears", adding that anti-seagull measures were also being considered by companies sited at the Greshop industrial estate in Forres. 

Meanwhile, Moray MP Douglas Ross said he wants the council to do more to combat the problem, after receiving an increase in the number of people contacting him over the issue. 

"I wrote recently to the chief executive about seagulls and their aggressive behaviour but was told the council is not legally obliged to deal with the problem, nor has the money or staffing to concentrate efforts on implementing deterrents," Mr Ross said. 

"I understand the council does take some steps to prevent seagulls nesting on properties it owns, but something needs to be done with more and more reported cases of aggressive seagull behaviour. 

"I know that certain times of the year are worse due to the fact that chicks are hatching and adults are protecting their nests and scavenging, which brings them into contact with the public and causes noise, mess, distress and in some incidents of attacks on residents." 

Mr Ross said the problem is getting worse. 

He added: "I am regularly contacted by constituents who have been annoyed by seagulls and in some cases have been injured by the birds swooping on them. This year, a young mother in Elgin wrote to me after her child was attacked in the street and another lady in Forres was worried about her husband who was knocked to the ground and left bleeding by one of the birds. These are just two examples but there are many more. 

"Something has to be done, yet the council seems powerless to act. 

"I am aware that one local authority in Scotland looked into obtaining a licence to cull the birds. This wasn’t a universally popular move but with a growing call for action, we have to look at the increasing number of gull attacks on people and decide what action can be taken. 

"This is something that is really causing distress and annoyance to a significant number of people."

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