York & North Yorkshire

Scarborough and Whitby children taught to avoid gull 'muggings'

Gull eating bread Image copyright Reuters
Image caption School children are being given advice on avoiding problems with the gulls in Scarborough and Whitby

Children in coastal towns are being taught how to avoid gull "muggings" amid a rise in the number of attacks.

Council staff in Scarborough are being sent into schools in a bid to "improve the relationship between humans and gulls".

Officials say they want to help pupils to understand why the birds - which may be on the lookout for food or protecting their chicks - might attack.

Dozens of cases have been reported in Scarborough and Whitby.

Figures from the council show 36 attacks in were reported in 2016, compared with 47 in 2018.

There have been 23 since January this year.

Jonathan Bramley, the council's environment and regulation manager, has been visiting schools in Whitby and Scarborough with videos and cardboard cut-outs of seagulls.

"We're reinforcing the message not to feed the gulls," he said.

In 2017, the council undertook a year-long "Herring Gull disruption programme" which saw eggs being removed and birds of prey used to deter them from the coast.

The programme has since been reviewed and extended until 2020.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The decline of the fishing industry in the area has been blamed for gulls coming inland for food

Ex-trawlerman Peter Hansell said the "seagull menace" was directly linked to the decline of Whitby's fishing industry.

"When there were 25-30 trawlers, we were constantly feeding the gulls," he said.

He said the birds would eat the scraps on the trawlers but over recent years had moved to the land in search of food.

Sorrel Lake, from Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary, said the food the gulls scavenged from the town centre "isn't good for them", creating problems with their feathers which leads to them unable to fly.

The sanctuary has rescued about 500 seagulls in 2019 and said they had cared for birds which have been "deliberately run over".

North Yorkshire Police is currently investigating "numerous" seagull shootings, but no arrests have been made.

Follow BBC Yorkshire on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to yorkslincs.news@bbc.co.uk.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites