The War on Seagulls: Fighting Them on the Beaches.
Seaside towns are in a flat about belligerent birds
SAVOURING the moment before the first bite of a pasty on a beautiful sunny day, Pamela, a holidaymaker, gazed across Porthgwidden beach in St Ives, on the Cornish coast.
She didn’t see the seagull until it was too late.
The bird missed the pasty but took a chunk out of her hand.
Blood poured down her arm and the seagull squawked away.
Seagull attacks are a big problem in coastal settlements, where about a tenth of Britons live.
Politicians want change.
On February 7th Oliver Colvile, MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, led a debate in Parliament about the menace.
MPs shared their horror stories.
John Woodcock, who represents Barrow and Furness on the north-west coast, spoke of the “blighted and besieged people” of his embattled constituency.
It is difficult to fight back against the feathered fiends.
All species of gull are protected, making a widespread cull impossible.
Yet polls suggest that most Britons—normally a sentimental bunch when it comes to animals—would like the legislation changed.
Brexiteers point out that, after leaving the EU, Britain will be able to set more bloodthirsty conservation policies.
Those in the know see little point in a cull, however.
Among them is Ron Tulley, a local councillor in St Ives, where giant, beady-eyed gulls saunter down the main drag.
In July a girl was airlifted to hospital after plunging off a harbour wall when a seagull swooped for her ice-cream.
Mr Tulley nonetheless argues that localised culls would not solve the problem.
Seagulls would continue to be attracted by the throngs of people eating pasties and chips.
At this time of year up to 750,000 herring gulls (the archetypal seagull) circle over Britain, so a nationwide cull would be costly.
Seaside towns can wage war in subtler ways.
Rubbish in the streets is sure to attract the birds.
Putting coloured bunting up, or fitting spikes to buildings, deters them.
But council budgets are tight.
Per-person spending by Cornwall’s local government has fallen by about a fifth since 2009, squeezing spending on the environment and refuse.
More money looks unlikely to arrive, so tourists will have to stay alert.
Seagulls like to approach from behind, which means no more fish and chips with your feet dangling over the harbourside—but at least no nasty surprises.