Firms enlisted in fight against gulls
Businesses are likely to be asked to help fund long-awaited research into the gull plague facing cities such as Bath.
The city's MP Don Foster last week hosted what he called a "seagull summit" for fellow politicians and local government representatives from inland areas affected by the birds.
An application by expert Peter Rock from Bristol University for Government research funding was unsuccessful and now local authorities, business improvement districts such as the one in Bath, and firms such as supermarket chains are to be asked to help out.
Mr Rock outlined the problems caused by urban gulls from damage to property through noise to increases in vermin caused by the pecked open rubbish sacks.
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Mr Rock said that data on the size of the overall urban gull population was now very out of date but he estimated that there were well over 100,000 pairs and that the numbers were increasing rapidly.
He and others at the meeting discussed the methods currently in use to reduce the problems, but he used photos to demonstrate that techniques such as netting, spikes, bird scarers, imitation birds of prey and egg replacement had little or no effect.
Many of these have been tried in Bath in the past, with the city's latest weapon being the use of new and tougher waste sacks in the city centre.
The meeting agreed that there was an urgent need for research into what makes the urban gull so successful, which might use GPS tracking devices on a sample of birds over a period of up to three years to get detailed information about their behaviour.
Mr Foster, now a communities minister, said his previous efforts to persuade the Government to fund such research – at a cost of up to £400,000 – had failed and he was not optimistic there would be a change of mind.
He will now convene a further meeting of MPs to plan how to approach the private and public sector sources of funding.
Mr Foster said: "For far too long we have been unable to find a solution to curb the growing problem of urban seagulls. In Bath and other areas, people are being terrorised by these birds and the current control methods are simply not working.
"The problems are getting worse, and unless we understand what it is that makes the gulls so successful, we will make no progress. Hopefully, by bringing interested councils and businesses in to fund research we will be able to find a lasting solution that can be used countrywide."