Pensioner's plea for warning signs after being attacked by gulls

Samuel Spencer was attacked by seagulls in Cleveleys while eating a pie and is appealing for the council to make people more aware of the dangers
Samuel Spencer was attacked by seagulls in Cleveleys while eating a pie and is appealing for the council to make people more aware of the dangers
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An ex-coal miner was attacked by a flock of seagulls – who stole his Poundbakery steak pie and left him with a two-inch gash on the side of his head.

Samuel Spencer, 81, said he was left with blood pouring down his face after the birdy blitzkrieg and now wants signs posted warning people in Cleveleys they could be the next target.

Wyre Council recently revealed plans to make feeding seagulls an offence in the borough after a surge in attacks, but Mr Spencer, of Mayfair Gardens in Thornton, wants more to be done.

He said: “You see kids eating hot rolls and ice creams. If they got attacked it could affect them for the rest of their life.”

Mr Spencer, who worked in the Yorkshire mines before moving to Blackpool to run a guest house close to Central Pier over 50 years ago, said the aerial raid happened at around 11.45am on Monday and he had no intention of feeding the hungry gulls.

He said he nipped into the Victoria Road West bakery for his pie, which he described as his ‘perk’, after finishing his shopping.

Crossing the road to head towards the bus stop, he took the snack out of its wrapper, and said: “As soon as I got the pie out a seagull attacked me, grabbed the pie and cut my face, either with its beak or claws.

“There was more than one. They were all over me. It really shook me up. I managed to get to the bus stop and I was bleeding like a pig.”

Mr Spencer, who also worked at the biscuit factory in Devonshire Road, North Shore before retiring, was given a tissue by a woman and caught the bus home, where he was met by his bemused wife.

Beryl, 79, said she initially thought her husband of 60 years had suffered a fall.

“He said he had been attacked,” she said. “I said, ‘Attacked? How can you be attacked in Cleveleys?’

“And he said, ‘It was the seagulls.’”

Mr Spencer, who uses a walking stick, said he called the council and asked for ‘signs put up warning people about eating on the main street’ but was told he would have to speak to the highways department.

In Wyre, signs are the responsibilty of the county council, but Mr Spencer said he shouldn’t have to do the legwork.

“As far as I’m concerned, I always thought the council was responsible for people on the street,” he added.

County councillor Andrea Kay said: “My call to residents is, ‘Do not feed the seagulls. If you want to eat near seagulls, be aware they may attack you.’”

A spokesman for Wyre Council said: “We are conscious of the number of incidents in the borough and we record all accounts in order to provide evidence of the scale of the problem.

“As a result of similar incidents we have recently undertaken a consultation on whether to introduce a Public Space Protection Order preventing people from feeding seagulls. The results of that consultation are currently being analysed prior to a report being produced making recommendations on whether to implement or not.

“Where seagulls are in the vicinity we would advise all individuals to be vigilant when eating.”

A spokesman for Poundbakery said bosses were ‘very sorry to hear the news about Samuel’.

The crackdown

More than 300 people had their say on proposals to ban the feeding of seagulls in Thornton, Cleveleys, Fleetwood, and Knott End.

The council wants to start handing out £100 fines to anyone caught leaving food for the gulls, after it emerged attacks on humans are being reported every three days.

If enforced, feeding seagulls would be outlawed across large parts of the borough – with residents urged to report those who flout the new order, as well as hot spots where they are being fed.

As well as attacks, the council has also expressed a concern about noise, and the impact on gull excrement on bathing water quality.

Recent council documents said: “The consultation period for the proposed Public Space Protection Order banning the feeding of seagulls in certain areas of Cleveleys, Fleetwood and Knott End has now concluded.

“The response was huge with over 300 responses. The responses are being analysed and will be used to inform if we take the proposal forward.”

The council has previously said it ‘recognises that seagulls are a welcomed symbol of the British seaside’, but said a hike in population and a lack of predators led to complaints over attacks and noise throughout the night and in the early morning, and widespread concern.

Traders in Cleveleys agreed there was a problem, but some were concerned over how the fines would be handed out.

Martin Hunns, from the Carousel Diner, said: “There is a problem with seagulls but I don’t think it’s been as bad this year as it was last year.

“When people finish eating outside as soon as they leave the table the gulls are down for the scraps, our staff are pretty sharp getting out there and getting it cleared up.

“People shouldn’t be feeding them but I’m not sure how you go about fining people.

“Is there going to be a dedicated seagull patrol?”

Jane Littlewood from the Rossall Beach group said: “If we were more respectful of where we lived and did not leave litter lying about and did not feed the gulls then I feel we could get on more harmoniously.”

Blackpool Council does not have any orders in place to prevent the feeding of seagulls although the practice is discouraged, and said it was not considering similar measures.

It is illegal to injure or kill gulls or destroy their nests.

The attacks

Seagulls swooping to steal food from the clutches of hungry tourists isn’t a new phenomenon, though there has been a sharp rise in reported attacks in recent years.

In 2015, councillors voiced their alarm – and pleaded with people not to feed the birds on new beach signs – after teacher Chantelle Bradshaw was left with a bloodied and bruised lip when a seagull tried to rip a sausage roll from her mouth.

She had been walked down Victoria Road West, the same street Mr Spencer was attacked on, with her partner Steve Connolly and their young son Max when the bird dive-bombed towards her.

She said: “I suppose to someone watching they would think it funny – cheeky seagulls.

“But it was a terrible shock and all I could think of was what if it had been my child.

“The bird was big and had a huge wingspan and it left me bleeding.

“It ripped the food out of my mouth. It could easily have seriously hurt a child or taken an eye out.”

Coun Vivien Taylor, the council’s health and communities boss, said at the time: “The level of complaints rises during the breeding season, but particularly during the months of July and August when reports of attacks on members of the public increase.

“The majority of the incidents occurred in the Fleetwood and Cleveleys areas which are the urban areas closest to their natural habitat.”

Months earlier, the then Prime Minister David Cameron said there was a need for a ‘big conversation’ about the winged menaces after a dog was pecked to death in Cornwall.