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Falcon scheme dropped as seagull numbers rise

3 December 09 13:16 GMT

A scheme using falcons to tackle urban seagull problems is to be dropped after the number of nesting birds increased.

The pilot project was undertaken in Dumfries this year and it was hoped it could be extended across Scotland.

However, the number of nesting pairs of birds in the town in 2009 was 370 - an increase of 18.5% compared with the previous year.

A report to councillors said that due to the cost and outcome of the trial it was not recommended to continue.

Highland Council had been monitoring the project to see if it would be worthwhile adopting in its area.

It was also hoped it might help to tackle similar concerns in places like Kirkcaldy and Aberdeen.

The results of the south of Scotland pilot project have been mixed.

The falcon scheme was run in conjunction with a free nest and egg removal service provided by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

It resulted in 671 nests and more than 1,500 eggs being removed between mid-May and July.

It is being recommended that the nest and egg removal scheme should be continued.

The council's environment services committee will be told that the flying of falcons without other measures "did not significantly reduce the numbers of nesting gulls".

Snatching food

An overall increase in numbers was reported, with the greatest rise outside Dumfries town centre.

A decrease was found in the number of public complaints about gulls swooping to snatch food - which reduced from 25 to just five.

The council has also been considering the introduction of byelaws to stop the feeding of the birds.

However, it has been concluded that measure would appear to be out of proportion to the problems experienced in the town.

Dumfries Labour MSP Elaine Murray said the results of the scheme showed it had been a "waste of money".

She said: "Rather than looking for easy headlines the Scottish government and Dumfries and Galloway Council need to get their act together to tackle this problem.

"Seagulls cause mess and put people off coming to the town centre.

"It's also concerning that there has been a large increase in numbers elsewhere in the town."

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