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article image'Killer' seagulls bite people and kill pets, UK media in frenzy

By Caroline Leopold     Jul 25, 2015 in Environment
Seagulls nesting on British coastlines are responsible for recent deaths of three pets and attacks on people. The UK media have dubbed the birds "killer seagulls," but marine experts say gulls are generally docile except when protecting their chicks.
Herring gulls have been responsible for killing pets and pigeons on British coastal areas, leading to publicity in the media. Whether these incidents are isolated attacks that are sensationalized by the media or a new trend of aggressive seagull is under debate.
The news media have reported in detail on recent seagull attacks on people and grisly deaths of pets. Cornwall seems to bear the brunt of attacks. A seagull cut a 66-year-old woman's head and a four-year-old boy was traumatized by having his finger savaged, according to the Guardian.
A Yorkshire terrier, Roo, was pecked to death outside his owner's home, while distressed children watched. There was “blood everywhere” home owner Emily Vincent told The Telegraph. “It was like a murder scene.”
Jan Byrne gave a vivid account to The Telegraph about how her 20-year-old pet tortoise was savaged by gulls. “‘It was like a bloody scene from a horror movie,” she said.
"I found Stig upside down with blood pouring from his wounds. He’d been flipped over by the seagull, his underbelly had been pecked and he was bleeding profusely... It was as if the seagull was treating him like a crab – targeting the softer underside and his tail and his eyes."
In May, a Chihuahua puppy, Bella, died in Devon after it was attacked by a group of gulls.
Marine expert Kevin Flannery told the Irish Times that the “current demonization” of gulls is not justified.
“Gulls have learned to associate humans with food, due to our own habits with feeding birds and with litter, and there are a few rogues — particularly herring gulls,” he said.
Herring gulls, an aggressive diving species, have declined in numbers by 90 percent in the past decade from 60,000 pairs to just 6,000 pairs.
Flannery said the birds are dying of botulism from eating at trash dumps and losing breeding areas to human activity. “So it is a species in crisis that does not need a cull.”
“It’s no coincidence that this news story flares up at this time of year and does so every year,” Birdwatch Ireland development officer Niall Hatch told the Irish Times.
Most of the year gulls are docile, but become protective in July when their chicks are about to leave the nest. "They tend to get a little more vocal and tend to swoop a bit more. People might perceive it as a threat.”
Hatch said there were more gulls in cities in wintertime than in summer, but his organization never received complaints in the winter.
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