LYME Regis Town Council will not be employing the service of eagles to frighten away seagulls – but it took the casting vote of new mayor Brian Larcombe to reject the idea.
A report on a successful trial using two American eagles in April went before the full council at last week’s meeting.
Operations manager Matt Adamson-Drage reported that the eagles were not flown but their presence produced an immediate response from seagulls. They took to the air and ascended to a height of safety.
Mr Adamson-Drage said the interest from the public was overwhelming and the event also attracted significant interest from the media, including television, radio and national newspapers.
The demonstration was staged by Xtreme Falconry but Mr Adamson-Drage said it would be very expensive to employ them throughout the summer, as they charged £95 an hour.
A more pragmatic approach would be to employ Xtreme Falconry periodically throughout the school summer holidays and align their presence to the council’s campaign not to feed seagulls.
As on the April demonstration, the eagles would not be flown but perched.
The cost of using the eagles from 12noon to 4pm on six separate occasions would be £2,280, expenditure that was not included in the 2019/20 budget but could be met by drawing down reserves.
Town clerk John Wright re-emphasised the interest in the trial, saying: “I have never known us to be inundated by organisations across the world – Norway, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany. We were getting calls from television with daily coverage of what was going on.”
Councillor Larcombe said the issue should be considered in terms of the effectiveness of chasing birds away. He thought they should concentrate on encouraging people not to feed the seagulls.
Deputy mayor Jeff Scowen said it was one of the best initiatives the council had ever had.
He said: “It was very successful, lots of enjoyment for people who came out and saw them. I would like to think of these six days as a prolonged trial and I would like to think that if this goes well we could extend it next year and maybe look at Easter as well.
“I am all in favour of this and I think it worked terrifically.”
Councillor Richard Doney commented: “Personally I don’t think this is good value for money. I have made the point several times when we discussed this before and I notice the word ‘trial’ has been used again. By my standards, no way was this a trial, it was a demonstration.
“Different people have different views on the outcome. I’m not going to vote against having them because of £2,000 worth of publicity but I don’t want us to kid ourselves that it’s going to make much different to the seagulls.”
Councillor David Ruffle said it was a “win-win situation” from a publicity point of view but it was a temporary solution and seagulls were not stupid.
He commented: “At the May fete last year they were flying falcons. As soon as they put the falcon up the seagulls dispersed but within 30 seconds they descended on the falcon and mobbed him. The instant reaction of the seagull is one of fright and the first thing they do is mess everywhere.”
The council was split on whether to proceed with the recommendation to use the eagles for six days in the summer, but it was rejected on the casting vote of the mayor.