‘Burly’ seagulls causing havoc in seaside town are ‘worse than rats’
Seagulls in a seaside town have left locals in shock by stealing their food and ripping open bags of rubbish.
The birds divide opinion in Torquay, where some residents say they cause ‘havoc’ in the streets and have horror stories about pesky gulls nicking their fish and chips.
There is also some debate as to whether or not seagulls and their nests should be protected in law the way they currently are.
Suzanne Collins said: ‘I don’t like them. They rip rubbish open and they attack people. They’re just vermin basically. The rats are probably kinder than the seagulls are.’
Adding that birds ripping rubbish open is a big problem on her street, she added: ‘It was like a rubbish tip on Tuesday morning in my lane.
‘One of the seagulls was actually dragging this rubbish bag across the road. They’re strong.’
Her friend, Emma Kerby, took a bit of a softer stance on the birds but she did recognise that they could cause problems too.
Emma said: ‘I like them to look at and the sound of them but they do attack you.
‘To be honest though, when I moved away for five years I missed the sound of them. I had aeroplanes instead.’
Seagulls, like all wild birds and their nests in the UK, are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Suzanne was not as forgiving as Emma however and questioned why winged scavengers were protected at all.
Suzanne said: ‘They’re protected and I just can’t see why. They kill badgers and every single year they breed and breed and there’s just thousands more born every year.
‘They cause people a lot of trouble. If you don’t watch your food they just pinch it out your hand. They’re just horrible. They fight each other as well.’
Emma said: ‘They’re not fair on other birds either. When I took my son to the duck pond we were feeding the ducks and the seagulls come and nick the food!’
Suzanne said: ‘We’re animal lovers but we just can’t abide them in summer. You can’t sit at the harbour and eat fish and chips. No chance, it would be gone.’
But Billy Dickens, who was spending the afternoon peacefully crabbing in the harbour, had a completely different point of view on the maritime birds.
Billy said: ‘I like seagulls, I’m happy with seagulls. I can see why people don’t like them but I don’t think you’d have a seaside without seagulls, would you? Like the sound of seagulls – that’s what the seaside’s all about, isn’t it?’
Billy was quick to mention food grabbing which is common by seagulls at the coast, adding: ‘If they steal my chips I wouldn’t be happy.’
Pauline Harvey, on the other hand is not as tolerant, as Billy. She runs All Sorts Creamery ice cream shop right on the harbour front.
The shop has outside seating for customers which regularly gets raided by the shoreline scavengers.
Pauline said: ‘We get a lot and they’re a nuisance, to be honest. There’s nothing we can do, sometimes I put the blind out but there’s nothing you can do.
‘I don’t like them. I don’t think there are many people who do like them because they should be out at sea but people are feeding them. As long as people are going and feeding the seagulls they’re going to come.’
Pauline does not think that the birds should be protected either because there were too many of them.
Pauline added: ‘I don’t want to harm them but there’s nothing I can do, you’ve just got to accept it. But they’re getting so bad that they’re biting people and snatching things out their hands.’
Sian Rees, who recently moved to the area, has mixed feelings about them. When she moved in there was a seagull nest with eggs in it on a chimney opposite her patio and so she has watched the little chicks grow up.
To Sian, while they seem sweet when they are little when they get bigger they are less attractive, so her feelings about them are conflicted.
Sian said: ‘I’ve not long moved in there and when I moved in the mother seagull was sitting on the eggs and I’ve seen them hatch out.
‘They were these cute fluffy things but now they’re getting a bit bigger and ugly. So they’re verging into the other side of the conflicting opinion of being flying rats.’
Despite the poor reputation of fully grown seagulls, Sian recognised that the coast is their home.
Sian said: ‘They’ve lived by the sea probably longer than we’ve been around here. It’s their natural habitat, they’ve just adapted to the towns.
Margaret Baron and Bill Adarr were mostly positive about the coastal cruisers too. They were out in Torquay visiting from Derbyshire so don’t see them so often.
Bill said: ‘We like seagulls. But if they pinch my chips then I don’t like them.’
Margaret added: ‘They’ve been eyeing us up a few times and I’ve seen them pinch other people’s chips but not ours.’
Bill continued: ‘They’re a bit like pigeons aren’t they? They’re a bit of a pest but they’ve got a place on the planet. They should go foraging for their own stuff, it’s too easy to take it off the locals.’
When asked whether it was a good thing they were protected Bill said: ‘Yeah I do. I don’t see any reason at all to kill a bird, even though they might be a nuisance.’
Paige Humphreys and Matt Nichols were sitting out together eating some fish and chips below the sun on the harbour side, while a seagull lurked behind them.
Despite the uninvited feathered guest, the threat of an attack did not really seem to bother them. Matt said: ‘If you go to the seaside you expect it don’t you?’
‘I love the sea but I don’t think they’re in Torquay so much, it’s more on the beaches.’