South Scotland

Dumfries: The town on the urban gull fight frontline

Seagull Image copyright Thinkstock

It is a familiar sight for any regular visitors to Dumfries town centre.

Some unsuspecting soul is nibbling nonchalantly on their takeaway lunch when a swooping seagull prises it from their hands.

And a car spattered with droppings - usually just after it has been cleaned - is almost a badge of belonging.

Suffice to say, the south of Scotland town has had more than its share of problems with its dive-bombing avian inhabitants.

Eight years ago, Dumfries hosted a summit meeting on the subject and 12 months later an Urban Gull Task Force was set up involving the Scottish government, Scottish Natural Heritage, an independent expert and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The scale of the gull problem in Dumfries in 2015

2,662

Eggs removed

  • 630 Nesting pairs recorded

  • 127 Live chicks removed

  • 53 Complaints received

Thinkstock
Image copyright Thinkstock

One of its recommendations was a free nest and egg removal service which started in 2009.

This year a "limited trial" of gull repellent gel as well as fixing spikes in some popular nesting locations will also be tried out.

Their effectiveness will be monitored to see if they produce results.

The council has already been checking the impact of its other efforts and says "vital information" gathered on the subject is now being used by the scientific world and other local authorities across the UK.

Pairs of urban gulls nesting in Dumfries
Year Town centre Town edge Total
2000 303 66* 369
2001 254 113 367
2002 240 149 389
2003 210 169 379
2004 201 129* 380*
2005 202 150 352
2006 191 130 321
2007 149 147 296
2008 138 160 298
2009 166 204 370
2010 218 450 668
2011 175 417 592
2012 185 486 671
2013 165 522 687
2014 153 410 563
2015 130 500 630

"Although impossible to prove, it would seem highly likely that without the measures deployed by the council, the breeding population of gulls in Dumfries would be considerably higher than the current population," concluded an Urban Gull Task Force report.

"It is critical that the details of the work continue to be recorded and analysed, in order to pick apart the contribution of various procedures that have taken place.

"This will enable Dumfries and Galloway Council to direct their efforts towards those procedures most likely to achieve success in the long term.

"Over time, it is hoped that this work will also benefit other councils when trying to decide how best to mitigate urban nesting gull problems."

Figures show that the number of gulls in the town centre has declined significantly over the years although they have risen on the edge of town.

The number of complaints from the public has fallen sharply over the time the egg and nest removal scheme has been in operation.

The council said it would not underestimate the scale of the problem.

Image caption Dumfries town centre has seen a fall in nesting seagull numbers since 2000

"There is no doubt that gulls continue to create real misery for many people whether that's through noise or aggressive behaviour by parent birds protecting their young," said councillor Colin Smyth.

"It's encouraging that the nest removal scheme is continuing to reduce numbers in the town centre where it is targeted at, and the overall number of complaints received has fallen."

However, he said the public had a part to play in ensuring they continued to make progress.

"I would therefore urge people to report any nest causing a nuisance, ideally as early as possible and certainly before eggs have hatched," he said.

"I'd also ask that property owners maintain their roofs and call for this service if they have a problem with nesting gulls as the council can only remove eggs with the permission of property owners.

"It's also frustrating that some people still appear to be feeding gulls and dropping litter which provides a food supply and community safety officers are having to regularly patrol Dumfries town centre."

It all means the town's battle with its urban gulls is unlikely to be over any time soon.

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