Sunday, August 10, 2003

It's a bird, it's a plane.... no, wait, it's just a bird

You Want A Piece o' Me?

Masters of intimidation, they stalk their victims relentlessly and without mercy. Now they are bringing their menace to Britain's town and cities and have been blamed for a string of brutal attacks on urban dwellers this summer.

The arrival of vast numbers of seagulls has created a sharp upsurge in reported incidents. Most major urban areas have experienced attacks, including London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

[. . .]

Councils throughout the UK are drawing up plans to tackle the menace. Calls for mass gull culls are growing. Shooting, poisoning or egg-destroying have been discussed by exasperated officials.

It follows a series of attacks, whose victims have included a woman who sustained deep beak wounds to her head, a pet dog pecked to death and a Welsh pensioner, who had a fatal heart attack after she was swooped on by the birds.

One Sussex school recently had to postpone lessons and install netting above the playground to protect pupils following the attentions of an agitated seagull. Another recent victim was pensioner Marie Munro, who was attacked and put in hospital after weeks of intimidation by the same seagull, an attack that shares parallels with Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller The Birds.

Munro recalls being constantly followed around by the gull for hundreds of yards. However, it was when she set off her personal alarm in a desperate attempt to frighten her stalker away that the intimidation turned ugly. 'That was a big mistake. Every time I stepped a foot outside it would follow me overhead, occasionally dive-bombing me,' she said.

Then the seagull began trailing her husband Len. The next phase of attack entailed attacking the pair in their back garden. Then last month came the attack that sent her to hospital for treatment.

As the creature dived for her face, Munro staggered back and fell, splitting the bone down the length of her foot and rupturing her tendons. Yesterday the plaster came off, but the terror remains. 'They are spreading farther afield. They are just so aggressive and intelligent with it,' she warns.

[. . .]

[Peter] Rock, a visiting fellow at Bristol University, said: 'Urban gulls are increasing exponentially. Many reports suggest they are terrorising workers and even striking bystanders on the street. They also produce large amounts of excrement, some deliberately aimed at humans.' (my emphasis)

Heads up!