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Gull cull discussed by councillors

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
Gull cull discussed by councillors

A LICENCE to cull.

Sounds like a James Bond movie produced during the pandemic – but that’s exactly what some councillors are demanding to tackle the “major seagulls crisis” in Dumfries and Galloway.

Elected members last week discussed how to properly tackle the region’s gulls problem after many years of divebombing attacks on the public, and countless complaints about the birds.

North West Dumfries Councillor and farmer Graham Bell insisted that a cull of the gulls is needed now.

He said: “The main problem we’re up against is the do-gooder society.

“But we’ve got a major, major crisis across the region. The gulls are out of control.

“I’m a farmer. I shot thousands of rabbits years ago when they were out of control on the farm.

“You must cull them. You need to cull them humanely and reduce the numbers.

“They are out of control, and it’s not just in urban areas, they are expanding out into the countryside. They spread salmonella to dairy cows and sheep.”

NatureScot is the country’s nature agency and to kill seagulls, or even remove their eggs or nests, without NatureScot’s permission is illegal.

But licences for gull culls can be issued in the most extreme circumstances.

Sandra Harkness, the council’s community safety manager, said: “The culling, or killing, of gulls is permitted under licence – but only as an absolute last resort.

“NatureScot would require us to go to all other measures before they would even entertain any killing.

“There are other measures we could try and these are all going to be looked at by our new officer.”

It was heard that the council appointed a new ‘gull control officer’ at the beginning of this month, who would be consulting with the community and gathering information on the problem.

The last gull count in 2020 showed there were over 1000 seagulls in total in the worst-hit areas of Annan, Dumfries, Stranraer and Kirkcudbright.

Despite constant complaints from members of the public and Loreburn Community Council, the council has failed to effectively tackle the problem.

At last week’s full council meeting Stranraer and the Rhins Councillor Willie Scobie tabled a motion demanding urgent action to tackle the gulls “epidemic”.

He wants the council to request a change in legislation at government level that would allow seagull numbers to be reduced.

Councillor Scobie said: “I don’t believe that one officer is going to be near enough to deal with this problem.

“They may go in to consult, but it’s not dealing with the problem.

“We do need action plans for the four areas. It’s to recognise the scale of the problem and what is needed. It needs four action plans – not just to be talking to communities, but growing together action plans that are going to deal with this particular problem.”

The issue will be discussed again at the communities committee when more information is available and contact has been made with other councils experiencing seagull problems.