Opinion Former Article

RSPCA urges tolerance towards gulls after 16 die in one week

Competition to stitch a toy for ‘cuddle a gull’ corner

The RSPCA are appealing for greater tolerance of gulls after 16 were found dead in the same town in the past week – all believed to have been shot.

The bodies of the 16 birds were found on grass verges and other spots around Seaford, East Sussex. Last year the charity received 237 cruelty complaints about gulls which, as well as shooting, included destruction of nests, people throwing stones at them and actively trying to run them over in their cars. Already this year there have been 135 similar complaints.

Inspectors are issuing a reminder that it is illegal to wilfully harm any bird, and meanwhile a wildlife centre is asking people to make a toy gull as part of its campaign to foster better relations between people and these birds.

RSPCA inspector Laura Bryant is leading the appeal and said: “For there to be so many deaths in so short a time makes us think these poor gulls may be the victims of deliberate attacks – possibly shot.

“Shooting birds can cause a great deal of pain. Every year there are problems involving people attacking gulls and people need to remember that this is against the law.

“Gulls are as synonymous with the seaside as ice cream, but are all too often seen as a pest by people rather than part of the wildlife around them.”

The RSPCA’s Mallydams Wood wildlife centre in Hastings has launched a competition for people to sew, knit or crochet any species of gull for its open day on Saturday 18 August as part of its ongoing campaign to educate people about gulls.

The centre, which rescues and rehabilitates large numbers of gulls every year, wants to increase the toy gull population in the 'gull cuddling corner' of its educational centre. This corner is intended to encourage tolerance for the bird which is often treated as a nuisance by residents and holiday makers by encouraging the youngsters who visit to literally ‘cuddle a gull’.

Bel Deering, centre manager, said: “Lots of people – even animal lovers - have surprisingly fierce feelings against the poor old gull. They see them as pests and a nuisance rather than just opportunist creatures simply following the food source.

“We have hundreds of gulls in our centre in need of care every year. Sometimes the gulls are injured by natural causes, but others are definitely the victims of purposeful attacks – some of them shockingly savage.

“We hope by raising awareness of the issue we can make people think twice before making this bird a victim.”

Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to do anything which causes suffering to wild birds and action can only be taken against them under licence. The RSPCA believes that deterrents and non-lethal methods of control are far better at helping to reduce problems. Not feeding the gulls and disposing of rubbish properly is one thing we can all do to prevent gulls from causing a nuisance.

Herring gulls in particular are a species of conservation concern and research has shown that overall gull populations are actually in decline.

If you find an injured gull, or have any information of a gull being treated cruelly, please call the RSPCA’s cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

Notes to editors

Mallydams Wood annual open day is on Saturday, August 18. Call the centre on 0300 123 0750 for more information.

Case studies with images available on request

The RSPCA gives the following advice on living in harmony with gulls:

—  In some seaside towns where people have fed gulls, they have learned to snatch food.  Try to keep food to yourself but don’t blame them if they can’t tell the difference between scraps willingly offered and your bag of chips!

—  Dispose of edible litter carefully – put it in gull-proof litter bins.  Plastic bags left in the street are an open invitation for gulls to investigate.

—  Gulls that swoop suddenly on people or pets are usually trying to protect chicks that have got out of the nest.  If you see a gull chick leave it alone – its parents can look after it better than you.

—  Gulls make most noise between May and July when they are breeding.  If gulls on your roof disturb you, or you are worried they may block a gas flue, you can prevent them nesting there in the first place.  Your local environmental health department or pest control company should be able to tell you about the devices available.

—  Remember, if you see a gull chick – usually mottled brown and grey in colour - leave it alone unless it is obviously injured.

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk  Website: www.rspca.org.uk

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