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Gull cull is ‘well justified’, Govt says

The Gibraltar Government said yesterday that the culling of gulls was “unfortunate but well justified”.

The government was reacting to public outcry after a commercial flight was forced to abort it take-off after a bird was sucked into an engine.

The Department of the Environment and Climate Change said Yellow-legged gulls fed on refuse generated by humans, leading to an explosion in the bird population not only in Gibraltar but also throughout the coasts of Andalucia.

However, the large population of gulls in Gibraltar is problematic for several reasons namely, air safety, public nuisance due to droppings and aggressive behaviour, and conservation.

The gulls in Gibraltar regularly mob, down and often kill, and eat migratory birds. They are predators that will frequently take the chicks of other birds, including Barbary Partridge. Gull colonies cause nitrification of soils, altering the flora of the surrounding habitat.

“The gull control programme has always been managed by organisations with expertise in animal biology and conservation. This ensures that the methods used are sound, the animals' welfare is given priority and importantly, only Yellow-legged Gulls are targeted,” said the Government in a statement.

“Shooting has been proven as the most effective method of control of such bird populations in Gibraltar and elsewhere.”

It called the operation “extremely effective” with over 4,200 fully-fledged gulls culled in 2015 alone.

“The methods used are designed to minimise non-lethal injury to the gulls, but it is unfortunately impossible to eradicate the risk of injury entirely,” the Government said.

All shooting activity is licensed and areas where the Avian Control Unit operates are under strict control of the Royal Gibraltar Police.

Reports suggest some members of the public appear to have taken matters into their own hands over the years. There has been a spate of poisonings recently and there has been some evidence in the past of private individuals shooting at gulls, said officials.

“Members of the public should refrain from these practices, which are illegal and pose a serious threat to other wildlife and in the case of poisoning, to pets and children. Needless to say, the possession and use of firearms without a licence is illegal in Gibraltar. Furthermore, all wild bird species are protected and removal of gulls requires a special licence,” said Government.

Any gull-related problems or any person with concerns about injured or nesting gulls should contact the Avian Control Unit on 20066588.

Photo by David Parody