Seagulls - are they the menaces of the sky or one of Blackpool’s most famous sights?

Seagulls - are they the menaces of the sky or one of Blackpools most famous sights?
Seagulls - are they the menaces of the sky or one of Blackpools most famous sights?
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Complaints about seagulls are flying in at a rate of one every two days on the Fylde coast.

Days after it was reported that a retired couple spent six days trapped in their home after being attacked by one of the birds, residents are being urged not to feed gulls as they continue to torment those who live here.

Fylde Council is looking into providing reinforced bin bags to deter the seagulls as its officers deal with two complaints a week.

Neighbouring Wyre Council said it got 72 reports in the 12 months up to the end of June. Blackpool Council did not provide figures.

READ MORE>>> Couple from Knott End held prisoner in own home - by seagulls
Seen by many as the seaside’s widespread menace, seagulls have been the subject of a string of complaints in The Gazette’s letters pages.

Despite featuring on the Blackpool crest, they are seen by many in the resort as a pest.

Terry Westhead, of Blackpool, said he had been left with a cut on the head after being attacked by a seagull while running.

He said: “I thought it was a one-off. Now these attacks have become a regular occurrence.

“Clearly the gulls’ nesting habits have changed and they’re settling inland, no doubt taking advantage of carelessly discarded food.”

In 2017, Wyre Council proposed £100 fines for people who fed seagulls in Cleveleys, Thornton, Fleetwood and Knott End in an effort to combat the problem, however these were later scrapped.

A council spokeswoman said that although there were no plans to revisit a ban on feeding seagulls, it was strongly discouraged.

She added: “We do not have any current plans to impose a ban on feeding gulls.

“We continue to monitor the impact of gulls in our urban areas and provide advice and signage to discourage the feeding of gulls.

“We advise residents and visitors not to feed gulls. We also suggest that if you have had problems with seagulls nesting at your property in the past, you should take steps to bird proof your property, as seagulls tend to come back to areas they know.”

In Fylde, complaints are typically linked to the birds attacking bin bags left out for collection.

Like Wyre, the council has no plans for a feeding ban but advises against giving food to seagulls.

But it said officers were looking at ways to prevent problems caused by the gulls going in search of food.

A spokesman said: “We are currently looking at costs for pest proof waste sacks in high risk areas for those residents who are on the sack collections rather than bins.

“We would not recommend leaving any food waste out. Please place all items in bins or take food waste home if bins are full at time of use.

“Also if people are feeding birds at home, we advise to use bird feeders rather than scattering feed on lawn as this may encourage seagulls.”

The RSPB believe there is a number of factors of why gull numbers have increased in such a short period of time.

A spokesman for the charity said: “Since the 1940s, some herring and lesser black-backed gulls have used rooftops for nesting.

“It’s not known exactly what prompted this move, but abundant inland sources of food and safe, predator-free nesting sites on rooftops were definite factors.

“The 1956 Clean Air Act prevented rubbish tip operators burning waste, so gulls took advantage of the huge amount of organic material increasingly generated by our ‘throw-away’ society and sent to landfill.

“Many urban streets are also frequently replete with discarded food and accessible rubbish and some people feed gulls.”

Did you know?

All species of gull are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

This makes it illegal to intentionally capture, injure or destroy any wild bird including seagulls, or interfere with its active nest or eggs.

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However, the law recognises that in certain circumstances control measures may be necessary. Simple nuisance or minor damage to property are not legally sanctioned reasons to kill gulls.

A spokesman for the RSPB said: “The UK administrations can issue licences, permitting nests to be destroyed or even birds to be killed if there is no non-lethal solution and if it is done to prevent serious damage to agriculture, the spread of disease, to preserve public health and safety and air safety, or to conserve other wild birds.

“These licences can be specific - issued to individuals on a case-by-case basis or general granted annually by the country administrations for use by an authorised person.”

The licence system can only be used for the purpose of preserving public health, public safety and preventing the spread of disease and is specifically for the control of Herring, Great

Black Backed and Lesser Black- Backed gulls.

Penalties that can be imposed for criminal offences in respect of a single bird, nest or egg contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 include an unlimited fine, up to six months imprisonment or both.