LETTER: What is being done to stop town being over-run by seagulls?

seagullAN open letter also sent to Lyme Regis Town Council:

I READ with interest your articles in LymeOnline, and like the title ‘Lyme Matters’ for Philip Evans’ column, but if Lyme really ‘matters’ what is being done to stop it being over-run by seagulls?

As a family we have owned property in Lyme for the last 40 years and have been visiting it for many more, but for the last few years it has become a nightmare.   Apart from the noise, interrupted sleep, damage to property and bird droppings, this month my family has been constantly dive-bombed by seagulls and, on different attacks within a five day period, lost two ice-creams, a biscuit and a sandwich to their them – snatched from child hands without warning.

One bombing-snatch was on my four-year-old grandson, which left him with scratches to the arm. Only adult intervention has stopped further beach attacks.

It is only a matter of time before someone is really injured by them. When is someone going to take the problem in hand – do we have to wait for a serious injury or can we count on Lyme Regis Town Council to take action?

Marcia Williams
(by email)

THE following response was received from Lyme Regis Town Council: 

MANY thanks for your email concerning problems with seagulls in Lyme. Problems with attacks by seagulls is by no means limited to Lyme. Other West Dorset and East Devon seaside towns are experiencing identical problems and some schools, even in inland locations, have banned children from eating outside during school lunch breaks due to gull attacks.

We have recently launched an educational campaign aimed at visitors to the town and local suppliers of ice cream and food. There are numerous signs along the seafront area and all food and ice cream sellers have been given information leaflets to hand out to customers. This is part of a concerted effort along the entire coastal area to try and prevent the feeding of gulls and to encourage better packaging of food.

We will also be replacing bins with those of a more appropriate ‘seagull resistant’ design and the first phase of new bins has already been installed.

Some resorts are also now employing people with birds of prey to act as a further deterrent. We are currently looking at how effective this is; but initial feedback suggests that any effect is only very temporary.

It is something we take very seriously and are doing all we reasonably and lawfully can (herring gulls are a protected species) to address the problem.

There is no doubt that the problem has worsened in recent years. There are various theories as to why this should be the case; including changes to food packaging, changes to fishing practices at sea leading to more gulls foraging along the coast and inland, etc.

There is also a problem with some people choosing to actively feed the gulls as though they were ducks or pigeons. Unfortunately, this just encourages the gulls to look on humans as sources of food. To discourage this, West Dorset District Council has introduced a new legal order making it an offence to deliberately feed herring gulls in most of Lyme Regis, including all of the seafront areas.

I am also investigating other legal measures which can be taken, including egg replacement. This has been tried in one or two other locations and makes the gulls sit longer on the nest and limits their time spent foraging for food.

We are certainly committed to doing all we reasonably and lawfully can to minimise the problem.

Mark Green,
Deputy Town Clerk, Lyme Regis

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