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Don’t feed the gulls

17 June 2021 : Council news, Community, Environment

SWT is continuing its work to ensure our streets and open spaces are clean and welcoming for residents and visitors, targeting problem areas throughout the district.

At this time of year it’s not just litter dropped by humans that causes an issue, wildlife also has its part to play, particularly gulls nesting in our town centres.

Breeding pairs court in April and start nest building in May with eggs laid from early May onwards. The eggs take about three weeks to hatch which means the first chicks are seen around the beginning of June.

The chicks grow quickly and are very active. They generally fledge in August and then take about three years to reach maturity when they in turn will start to breed. The life expectancy for gulls can be up to 20 years.

Gulls are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – and are classed as an endangered species which means the Council is limited in its ability to control them and needs the support of residents to help tackle the problem.

Cllr Andy Sully, Executive Member for Environmental Services, said: “Many people find gulls to be a nuisance for several reasons - noise caused by gulls calling; mess caused by their droppings; damage to properties caused by gulls picking at roofing materials and by nests which block guttering; birds dive-bombing and swooping on animals and people - but the main one is food waste being scavenged.

“Gulls go looking for food waste in any bags left unattended. At this time of year we see an increase in the number of seagulls ripping open rubbish bags and spreading it far and wide so we all need to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent this.

“Gulls are aggressive feeders and will steal food from other species and humans, so be aware that they may just be nearby. Gulls will also be attracted to food waste that is dropped in streets and open spaces – half-eaten sandwiches for example - so please use the litter bins provided or take your waste home.”

People should avoid putting waste food in rubbish bags as this can lead to odours, which make the bags more attractive to the gulls.

Most residents have a separate brown waste food bin and this is the best way to keep waste food, which along with other recyclables are collected weekly.

A few residents, those in flats, for example, may not have food bins. In that case, the best solution is to double bag food or food packaging, and put waste out as late as possible before 7am on collection day rather than leaving it out early and vulnerable to attack by cats or foxes as well as gulls. Gull-proof sacks are also available to buy from various retailers.

There is plenty of advice available on how to dispose of food waste from the Somerset Waste Partnership.

Further information on gulls can be found on our website.