Buttered toast, biscuits and sausage sandwiches are just a few of the things our seagull population has developed a taste for – much to the dismay of hungry locals.
Marjorie Dyson, 82, fell prey to the birds earlier this month while walking along Victoria Road West in Clevleys.
She was left with a black eye when seagulls mistook her flowers for food – but she is not alone in being attacked on the street, which is gaining a reputation for food pinching and divebombing.
The Gazette reported in November how retired coal miner Samuel Spencer, 81, was left with blood pouring down his face when a flock of seagulls stole his Poundbakery steak pie on the same street.
Wyre Council last year proposed £100 fines for people who fed seagulls in Cleveleys, Thornton, Fleetwood and Knott End in an effort to combat the problem.
Opinion on whether fining those who enjoy tossing a chip or a crust of bread to the birds was the answer was divided. But shoppers and business owners on Victoria Road West seemed to be in agreement on one vital point: the Fylde coast’s seagull population is growing – and getting more aggressive.
Two-year-old Lucas Entwistle, from Cleveleys, last year needed a tetanus shot after a seagull savaged his hand while trying to steal a slice of toast as his family walked through the town centre.
His dad Liam said: “It got the piece of toast and got his fingers with it and tried to fly off. It drew blood. Every time we walk through Cleveleys now he won’t eat anything. One tried stealing a sausage sandwich off me the other day. They can be a real problem.”
Little Lucas wasn’t the only youngster in Cleveleys that day who had been menaced by the gulls.
Fellow Cleveleys resident Jen Barton’s three-year-old son, Max, was also attacked by a seagull last year while eating a biscuit at Blackpool Zoo.
She said: “We don’t like seagulls, to be fair. They are very strong birds and when they are flying in a young boy’s face they can be quite scary and aggressive.”
Shop owners who spend their days behind the counter have front row seats to see the antics of the birds, which seem to have no trace of fear as they watch shoppers from their perches on top of dustbins and gutters. Some people said they had witnessed them chasing hapless passers-by that very morning.
Robert Roberts, a volunteer at the Brian House charity shop on Victoria Road West, described how he once had to march one of the brazen birds out of the shop after it wandered in.
He said: “They are a nuisance and they dive bomb you in their numbers. They are scavengers at the end of the day and a fine isn’t going to stop them doing it. I can’t see fining people changing anything.”
Leanne Hutson, also a volunteer at Brian House, added: “They didn’t used to be such a hassle years ago. It’s how they have evolved. They’re just going to come and take what they want now. We have fortnightly bin collections so there’s always food out there for them to eat.”
Julie Portman, of Fleetwood Produce Ltd, said the birds had made her their unwilling accomplice, as they used the canopy of her shop to scope out vulnerable shoppers emerging from the nearby Poundbakery with pies in hand.
She said: “There seems to be a real big flock of them this year. You hear people complaining about how many there are.
“They’ll sit up on the roofs and they’ll notice somebody eating something. Sometimes they’ll stop on our canopy or on the post, and that’s when they swoop. You can’t walk down the street eating something.
“We did get a letter from the borough about putting this fine in place, but there’s not a lot of people who do actually feed them. They’re just taking it.”
Andrea Ashworth, who owns Pets and Puzzles next door, said: “Personally I don’t feed the seagulls but I do see people being attacked by them.
“What the answer is I don’t know, because if you don’t feed them they’ll be hungry and that’s when they’ll attack people.”
Concerns were raised that the seagulls had ‘got a taste’ for fatty junk food, and would forsake fish in favour of sausage rolls and sandwiches.
Local business owner, Darren Cook, who owns Cook’s Family Ice Cream, once had his stock of sugary ice cream cones pilfered by hungry gulls.
He said: “My back was turned for 30 seconds and somebody came up to me and said a seagull had just come down and stolen my cones. Without a doubt there are more of them now. It’s definitely a growing problem.”
Speaking about possible fines for seagull feeders, he added: “I think it’s a worthwhile idea, but how they would impose it I don’t know, unless they are going to have seagull patrols.”