A former lord mayor of Drogheda has suggested an interesting way to combat the town’s problems with its growing seagull population.
People in Drogheda might not have to guard their chips quite so vigilantly anymore if the town’s former lord mayor gets his way.
The former politician has argued in favour of an approach that involves giving the birds the contraceptive pill in order to stymie their future procreation.
Drogheda’s seagull problem – “a curse”
According to former lord mayor of Drogheda, Frank Godfrey, the seagull population is “the curse of our town”. Godfrey has previous with the kleptoparasitic birds, arguing in a public meeting in June that the town’s seagull problem was “going from bad to worse”.
Though Drogheda is 6.5 km (4 mi) inland, a 2021 urban gull survey cited “active shipping along a large tidal river” and an “extensive urban waterfront” as factors creating “an attractive breeding habitat” for seagulls.
“The streets of Drogheda were like snow this summer, there were so many seagull droppings around the place,” Godfrey told the Irish Mirror. “We have to do something to reduce the seagull population because it keeps getting bigger and bigger”.
EU law protects seagulls from culling, so alternative measures must be found in order to control their population. Godfrey has suggested giving the seagulls the contraceptive pill.
“One solution is to give the birds a contraceptive pill in the food,” he continued. “The other is to try and set up a new feeding area for them outside of the town at the mouth of the River Boyne”.
The seagull contraceptive pill – previously used in Belgium
Blankenberge in Belgium adopted the contraceptive pill approach to tackle its growing seagull population after successful trials took place with pigeons in the Belgian town of Tongeren, as well as in Barcelona and Venice.
The pill is concealed in food that is then left out for the seagulls to consume.
Veterinarian Pieter Colla explains that, as long as the seagull ingests the pill regularly, “the medication will make sure their egg white and egg yolk will mix, so you will get a scrambled egg, which is impossible for a chick to grow in”.
Opposition – the negative side of things
However, Belgian nature conservation organisation Vlaamse Vogelbescherming opposes the practice. The organisation’s Nicolas Brackx argues that “only the dominant birds will get to the food and eat it all before the weaker ones get to it”, rendering the approach redundant.
BirdWatch Ireland also expressed similar concerns when a similar plan was touted in Dublin last year.
Head of communications, Niall Hatch, pointed to a number of “problems and flaws” with the approach: “First of all, how do you ensure an adequate dosage or correct dosage for the birds?
“There are problems with overdosing, perhaps. So, no, it’s something that hasn’t really been thought out properly”.
Hatch also posed the question: “How do you ensure that other creatures aren’t going to eat them?”, explaining, “You could see dogs being affected by this, many other bird species with probably the same sort of base”.