by Alan Shields
A Scottish council has spent nearly 200,000 pounds in the last five years trying to combat pesky seagulls.
Aberdeenshire Council has put tens of thousands of pounds towards the removal of the eggs and nests of the protected species as well as bringing in birds of preys every year in the hope of scaring the swooping sea birds off.
Residents regularly complain to the local authority about cheeky gulls pinching food from passers-by and dive-bombing built-up areas for scraps.
But new figures about the cost of frightening off the feathered fiends, released under the Freedom of Information act, show that the combination of hawk patrols and nest removal work has cost the council a total of 197,979.70 pounds since 2010.
The council’s annual bill for “seagull control” has increased from 7,460 pounds in 2010 to over 30,000 pounds in 2014.
This includes the cost of removing nests and eggs from various council properties as well as using a live hawk as a deterrent – including at the council HQ at Woodhill House, in Aberdeen.
An additional 82,052.70 pounds was spent employing a falconer at waste management sites in Banchory and Inverurie since 2010.
The seaside towns of Peterhead and Stonehaven are also shelling out an additional 2,200 pounds for similar falconry services to deter gulls from pestering the public.
A total of 60 complaints were made last year alone about the troublesome birds – which spurred the council to create an informational leaflet titled Survivor’s Guide To Living With Urban Gulls.
Already this year 10 complaints have been made regarding gulls.
It is illegal to kill gulls and their young as they are protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
But nests and eggs can be removed before they hatch.
Seagulls in the north-east have proved a tough lot to scare away in the past – despite many efforts.
Two ‘Robops’ – robotic birds of prey – were unleashed in the fishing port of Fraserburgh in 2003 when the booming gull population caused a spate of problems.
Aberdeenshire Council was forced to bin the project after seagulls got used to the flapping fibreglass falcon – and started sitting next to it.