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Major survey on gull habits planned as Moray Council gears up for its annual battle

Tackling the gull problem in Moray is on the agenda for councillors next week. Picture by Jason Hedges
Tackling the gull problem in Moray is on the agenda for councillors next week. Picture by Jason Hedges

Moray councillors are set to discuss plans to tackle problems with gulls, but communities blighted by them are unlikely to have the issue resolved any time soon.

Towns including Elgin, Forres and Buckie are experiencing problems with the creatures creating noise and droppings, as well as attacking people.

With gull numbers on the decline nationally they are regarded as a protected species, and a licence is required to have nests and eggs removed from properties.

But changes to the process by NatureScot means building owners will have to show they have introduced preventative measures such as placing spikes on their roofs before a licence is granted.

Have other measures used elsewhere in Scotland worked?

Members of the full Moray Council will discuss current arrangements for dealing with urban gulls, what further actions can be taken and the cost implications of that at a meeting this week.

Gulls gathering at Doocot Park in Elgin.

In his report, head of development services Jim Grant explained extensive gull control measures carried out by another Scottish local authority did not reduce bird numbers.

Mr Grant said: “The surveys undertaken by Dumfries and Galloway Council have identified that the gull population has not reduced in over 10 years of nest and egg removal.

“It would appear that the various interventions have displaced the gulls’ breeding from the centre to more residential areas of the town.

“To be effective, any programme of gull control needs to employ a range of methodologies and to be carried out over a number of years.

“Even with such a programmed approach, other local authority gull control operations have demonstrated the interventions did not reduce the population and moved gulls around potentially into more sensitive areas.”

£44,000 for gull-proof bins

Councillors will be asked to agree:

  • To undertake a major survey on urban gull habits
  • Continued rollout of gull-proof bins in Cullen, Elgin, Buckie, Forres and Findhorn
  • A public education programme discouraging people from feeding them and promoting the use of nesting prevention measures.

Installing the bins is expected to cost £44,000 with £2,000 for the education campaign.

The gull survey would form part of a wider report covering the north-east and involving other local authorities.  It would take a detailed look at species, breeding locations, roosting, feeding and the habits of juveniles and adult birds over a four-year period.

But at a total cost of £480,000 – £160,000 for Moray – it is not expected to start soon.

Projects to disrupt gulls in some areas of Elgin and Pilmuir in Forres last year saw 175 nests and 441 eggs removed, with 20 chicks taken to the Ellon Bird Sanctuary.

Elgin and Forres  Common Good Funds gave £20,000 and £1,300 respectively for the projects with a further private donation of £2,000 given to cover residential properties in Forres.

Gull survey unlikely to start soon

Laser disruption of the birds could go ahead in Elgin and Forres again this year if external funding is available.

However, the move is not considered to be cost effective.

Mr Grant said: “It is questionable whether disruption provides value for money while other measures are constrained.

“Whilst local members may consider this activity to provide some relief for residents such that common good and other external funding may reasonably be used for this purpose, this is not recommended by officers at present.”

Councillors will discuss the issues at the meeting on Wednesday.

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