Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 12:32 UK

Aerial attack planned on seagulls

Seagull in Dumfries
A falcon will be used to try to drive the gulls away from the town centre

An aerial action plan has been drawn up as part of a pilot programme to tackle problems with urban seagulls.

Environment Minister Mike Russell confirmed last month that Dumfries would be used to pioneer methods to stop the birds swooping on the public.

Potential measures to be taken include destroying nests, removing eggs and using a falcon to drive the gulls away.

The options will be outlined in a report to go before Dumfries and Galloway councillors next week.

A joint Scottish Government and council task force has been set up to tackle the issue.

Officials will develop an action plan before next year's breeding season.

The bulk of the work is expected to involve destroying nesting sites and removing eggs.

However, other measures are planned to tackle the problems caused by the existing gull colony in the town centre.

A key concern is the growing number of incidents in which the birds swoop down to snatch food out of the hands of pedestrians.

Such attacks are now said to be a daily occurrence.

Renewed efforts

According to the report, there is no method of killing the birds that is viable.

Instead non-lethal measures such as the use of a bird of prey to drive the gulls away are to be examined.

Negotiations are already under way with a specialist company about bringing in a falcon - a tactic which has proved successful elsewhere.

Renewed efforts are also to be made to persuade property owners in the town centre to "gull-proof" their premises.

The council is planning to lead by carrying out a survey of its own buildings to identify where netting or other measures are needed.

While there is no law preventing people from feeding gulls, the local authority said its another issue that needs to be addressed if the taskforce is to be successful.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has said a change in human behaviour would address the problem better than taking action against the birds.

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