Britain is facing an influx of vicious seagulls that are so big they can kill dogs.
That may sound like like a tabloid headline, but it’s a real issue in many UK coastal towns, which have become infested with the feral beasts.
Seagulls used to live largely out at sea, eating fish. But a huge population of gulls has evolved its behaviour since the 1970s to live in cities, feeding off rubbish, human food, and — occasionally — picking off live pets from people’s back gardens. These urban gulls don’t bother going out to sea much anymore.
In May, a seagull pecked a chihuahua to death in Devon. A Yorkshire Terrier was killed by swooping gulls in Cornwall. A pet tortoise was eaten like a crab in Liskeard. Gulls in London prey on live pigeons in Hyde Park by holding them under water with their webbed claws, in order to eat them.
The problem is that seagulls are meat-eating and omnivorous. With wingspans reaching 5 feet 7 inches, they are like flying dogs, with the appetites of rats. In certain seaside towns like Brighton, it is impossible to eat food outdoors — gulls will swoop down and steal it from your hands. Their droppings fall like pints of whitewash, defacing everything.
Even the Prime Minister has called for a “big conversation” about it.
This is the story of why the seagulls suddenly decided to ditch the sea and come live with us.
Small towns across Britain are being terrorised by feral seagulls. These headlines are from Brighton's famously sarcastic local newspaper.
They have swooped down and killed two family dogs in the seaside regions of Devon and Cornwall in the past two months, and left a Cornwall pensioner with head wounds. This is how the BBC covered it.
It's hard to simply ignore these birds -- they can weigh up to 2.3 kg (5 lbs), and the wingspan of the Great black-backed gull can reach 5 feet 7 inches. They can live up to 15 years old.
Seagulls usually travel in large flocks and attack in numbers. They're meat-eating omnivores, meaning they can eat any scraps they can get their talons on.
Traditionally, sea gulls were only found in towns or cities on the coast or with connecting corridors to the sea. They fed off the fish in the ocean.
However, the threat has been steadily moving inland over time and the birds have become increasingly common in urban areas, including London, miles away from the sea.
In 1970, UK fishermen caught 300,000 tonnes of cod. In 2007 that number had dropped to 7,000 tonnes. The gull population along the coast declined while inland populations remained healthy.
Although there are fewer of them in total, there are more gulls living inland because they have stopped eating at sea.
Tall buildings and structures in cities and urban areas also provide a safe place for the birds to nest without fear of predators such as foxes.
The fact that seagulls are intelligent makes their numbers only more difficult to control. They can unlock wheelie bins and other enclosed storage units.
But they're not intelligent enough to tell the difference between what's scrap food and what's not -- hence why they often attack and try to eat animals and humans.
In Britain's March budget, George Osborne announced £250,000 was being pledged for a research project into the violent seagulls, however, the project was scrapped because it was considered it a 'low priority.'
However, David Cameron appears to regret the scrapping, saying that a 'big conversation' is needed after the death of family dogs, and the brutal pecking of a pensioner.
The birds are replacing pigeons. St Austell and Newquay's MP Steve Double branded them 'flying rats.'
But seagulls are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. So they cannot be culled.
Culling proposals have been met with opposition. In Burnham-on-Sea, councillors voted against a £10,000 plan to remove eggs from the nests.
The status means you can't damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. Some MPs have called for their protected status to be axed so that authorities can better control the influx.
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