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Nuisance gull strategy continues with Peterhead pilot project

>> 23 May 2016

Efforts to tackle nuisance gulls will be stepped up in Peterhead this weekend as part of an ongoing project to lessen their negative impact on communities. Aberdeenshire Council wants local people to work with it to persuade gulls their natural environment is preferable to our town centres.

Last year the authority began a five-year project to raise the profile of the problem and the potential solutions, while addressing the issue where possible. Every year the council receives complaints about people and pets being attacked, the mess caused by droppings and the noise of amorous birds among the rooftops.

The council has a preferred supplier which can advise and assist residents and businesses with work such as nest and egg removal and installing deterrents. At the start of breeding season, residents and businesses were encouraged to think about how they can contribute to lessening the problems gulls cause.

Meantime, the council has been progressing with work on its own properties and in public spaces and is running a pilot programme with property owners in Peterhead town centre.

At the start of May, Presly Pest Control carried out the first of several visits to Peterhead to remove eggs and nests from roofs in Marischal Street, Drummers Corner, Thistle Street, Back Street and parts of Chapel Street and Prince Street.

The work is being done under General Licence from Scottish Natural Heritage. No chicks or adult gulls are harmed during the process – only eggs are taken, and if chicks are present during later visits, their nest will be left untouched.

It is supported by regeneration funding through the Peterhead Futures Group, and was offered to property owners at a subsidised rate to encourage take-up.

Nineteen property owners took part, allowing the roofs of 40 buildings to be checked with the result that 32 nests were removed.

More than half of those nests already contained eggs, while the owners of the others would have been about to lay.

With an average of three eggs laid in each gull nest, and the majority of urban gulls successfully raising all of their chicks, this will have prevented almost 100 young gulls from hatching and causing problems in the town centre later this summer.

It is now the height of laying season, and this weekend the pest controllers returned to Peterhead to remove more nests and eggs.

Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC), Councillor David Aitchison, said:

“Gulls have become a very serious problem in Peterhead town centre in recent years, though other towns are affected.

“Many people have been attacked, and some have been injured. Businesses have been badly affected as potential customers are reluctant to venture into town.

“Town centre residents have also had to put up with the noise disturbance and mess caused by nesting gulls and I’m pleased we are able to take action and try new things to address the concerns of local people and visitors.”

ISC vice chair, Councillor Stephen Smith, also a Peterhead councillor, said:

“This is a pilot project and we will carefully monitor the outcome with a view to using this tactic elsewhere.

“We are very grateful for the support of the many property owners and local businesses who have taken part, which will make the town centre safer and a more pleasant place to visit for everyone.

“The area targeted was identified as a hotspot for gulls breeding around the town centre, with the aim being to reduce the number of young gulls competing for food in late summer, which should reduce the incidence of attacks on people to steal food.”

Last year the council removed nests and eggs at 77 education properties, three social work properties, 23 corporate buildings and one roads office at a cost of around £12,000.

A similar sum was spent flying hawks as a deterrent at Lairhillock School, Westhill Academy, Banchory Primary and Academy and its Woodhill House HQ in Aberdeen.

Deterrents have also been installed on buildings such as Buchan House in Peterhead and Banff Town House.

For more information on how you can help deal with nuisance gulls, see our Survivor’s Guide to Living with Urban Gulls: http://bit.ly/1oDdgeX.

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