Seagulls accused of killing pet terrier

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Herring gulls stand accused of killing a family’s pet Yorkshire terrier. The incident, which has been widely reported in the press, took place on 9 July in Newquay, Cornwall.
The gulls were nesting on the Vincent family’s roof, and as pest controllers know, herring gulls can be very protective when they have young. What’s really wound the press up is the fact that the incident was witnessed by three-year old Jace Vincent, who is now frightened to go outside and his mother, Emily Vincent, is reported as saying that she now fears the birds may attack one of her four children.

Ms Vincent said she was ‘disgusted’ that Cornwall Council says herring gulls cannot be destroyed. But the Council is correct. Herring gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and cannot be harmed.

However, that does not mean that nothing can be done. Ms Vincent could, indeed perhaps should have, been advised to call in a qualified pest managment professional to assess the situation. If there is a risk to public health and safety then the General Licence GL05 (Licence to kill or take certain birds to preserve public health or public safety), issued by Natural England, can be used to allow an authorised person to damage or destroy the nests, or to take or destroy the eggs of Herring gulls.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the local MP, Conservative Steve Double, has got involved and has written to the secretary of state for environment “to ask what can be done to control the seagull population in Cornwall”.

Whatever can be done will not be done by Cornwall council as there is the following statement on its website, dated 19 November 2014:

‘Cornwall Council no longer provides a pest control service, however information on certain pests is available on this website. For any specialist advice/treatment we recommend you contact a private pest control company – a list of which can be found in the Yellow Pages or online. We would recommend that you obtain a number of quotes to ensure you are getting value for money. Please do not attempt to carry out any pest control yourself, unless you feel competent to do so, and follow any manufacturers’ instructions.’

Yorkshire terrier Roo
The Vincent’s family pet, Roo, had to be put down after being pecked by Herring gulls
Picture: Emily Vincent

Herring gull on nestGull’s are very protective of their nest and young
Picture: Red Kite Pest control

Seagull attacks regularly hit the headlines. In May a Chihuahua puppy was pecked to death in Honiton in Devon and, last October, a ‘killer seagull’ was spotted dragging pigeons into Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake and drowning them before eating them – a novel form of pest control!

Reports of this sort led the Chancellor George Osborne to set aside £250,000 in the March budget to fund research into the aggressive behaviour of urban gulls. However, in June the government decided to scrap the project before it had even got off the ground with the £250,000 ‘saving’ going towards deficit reduction.

Just reported at 13.35 on 16 July 2015, on BBC News is a simlar case, this time a report of seagulls killing a pet tortoise, also in Cornwall.

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