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As seagull numbers double, how can we protect ourselves?

Seagulls fight over scraps of food on a beach. Photo: PA

Pests or just harmless birds?

Whatever you think of them, the West Country certainly isn't short of seagulls whether you live in urban or seaside parts of the region.

Growing reports of seagull attacks are down to the fact urban populations of the birds have doubled, experts say. Peter Rock is counting gull colonies, and he says numbers have doubled in just fifteen years.

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The first national survey of gull colonies in 2000 found 239. On his latest survey Mr Rock has found 513 and he's still counting.

number of gulls recorded in the year 2000.
the current amount of gulls recorded by Mr Rock.
Credit: ITV News

So the increase in attacks is no surprise he says. The birds will attack humans to protect their young - but what most people experience is simply a grab for food.

But trying to controlling them is easier said than done.

The large gulls are the higher end of avian intelligence. They seem somehow, very easily, to be able to deal with whatever the pest control industry throws at them.

For them, really, for the gulls it's really little more than a minor inconvenience. And the best that can be said about pest control is that it simply moves the problem around.

– Peter Rock, urban gull researcher

St Ives has become notorious for its aggressive gulls.

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People aren't allowed to take the law into their own hands, as the gulls are legally protected. So what CAN we do?

If you hold the food up in the air the gulls are going to have a go at it. So if you're going to, say, an ice cream kiosk and you want to get three or four ice creams hold them quite close. But basically if you are holding it out you are going to get your ice cream snatched.

– Peter Rock


A seagull on Sidmouth sea front. Credit: PA