• August 16, 2019

Overly aggressive gulls lead to city’s solution - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Overly aggressive gulls lead to city’s solution

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Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 10:58 am

OCEAN CITY – The war against seagulls has become the battle of the birds.

For several weeks, the city received complaints about aggressive seagulls stealing food on the beach and Boardwalk. 

On Aug. 2, Mayor Jay Gillian announced that a falcon company would use birds of prey to drive seagulls away.

“The city has contracted East Coast Falcons in an effort to scare away the gulls who have become dependent on an unnatural supply of food stolen from people on the boardwalk and beach,” Gillian said in his weekly letter. “From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, starting tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 3), falcons, hawks and owls will fly over Ocean City to move the gulls away from these areas without harming them. This abatement program is believed to be the first of its kind for any shore town on the East Coast.” 

East Coast Falcons owner Erik Swanson has trained falcons to hunt and abate pest birds for 30 years, the company’s web site states. Swanson began his career by training police dogs for patrol and narcotics assignments, before training exotic animals in zoos. 

The company trains falcons to handle bird or animal infestation issues for homeowners, property management companies, warehouses, Fortune 500 companies, ballparks and sports arenas, airports and Air Force bases, and municipalities. 

“Different birds tackle different types of jobs. Sparrows in a warehouse can soil stored goods and render them valueless; we work with small falcons to remove sparrows from inside buildings,” according to the company’s website. “We use hawks to abate pigeons, and larger falcons – sometimes in combination with dogs or pyrotechnics – to remove seagulls and geese.” 

The company uses pyrotechnics once a falcon is airborne to condition the nuisance birds to associate the pyrotechnics sound with the approaching falcon.  

“On assignment for bird abatement, our professional falconers and our birds often put in 18-hour days, from sun-up to sundown – particularly when we’re working to remove flocks of birds from crop fields, orchards or vineyards,” according to the company’s website. 

Gillian said the program is a safe alternative to deal with pesky seagulls. 

“When East Coast Falcon’s professionals fly the raptors overhead, gulls know instinctively to leave an unsafe place,” Gillian said. “Professional falconry-based bird abatement is a humane, effective solution for removing nuisance birds.”

Gillian noted that the contractor is licensed to perform the work, which the Humane Society of Ocean City approves. 

“Over time, the gulls in Ocean City have become increasingly aggressive in their quest for Boardwalk food and beach picnics,” Gillian said. “For the health and safety of both these birds and humans, the city must take action to return them to their natural diet and habitat. The sight of falcons, hawks and owls over the Boardwalk will be unique, and I hope you’ll join me in wishing this program success.” 

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