THE persistent nuisance of aggressive and messy seagulls in Ilfracombe has prompted town councillors to look towards Cornwall for a solution. As another noisy and - for some residents - nervous nesting season of dive bombing and littering draws to a close

THE persistent nuisance of aggressive and messy seagulls in Ilfracombe has prompted town councillors to look towards Cornwall for a solution.As another noisy and - for some residents - nervous nesting season of dive bombing and littering draws to a close, the town council is in the process of contacting its counterparts in areas such as St Ives and Padstow to see how they have dealt with the problem.Unattended rubbish bags or bins without a secure lid become instant targets, leaving the familiar sight of litter strewn across roads in the town, while protective parent gulls routinely dive at passers-by if they think their chicks are being threatened.The Mayor, Councillor Geoff Fowler, said they understood the likes of St Ives and Padstow had enjoyed some success with tackling gulls and hoped the solutions might prove useful to Ilfracombe."We're keen for the gull situation not to escalate any more than it already has," he said."They have swooped on people in the High Street, which can be frightening, especially for children and I have had one dive on me at Doone Way." "They are not restricted in any way, they have no natural predators as such and they are not where they should be, which is out on the cliffs, not the centre of town."It goes without saying people should not encourage the gulls by feeding them, but it still happens."All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, although people have a right to protect their property and a control licence can be issued by DEFRA, as long as the cull or removal is carried out by a licensed operative.But for councils, which do not usually own vast swathes of a town, controlling the gull population can be much harder.At St Ives Town Council, a spokesman told the Gazette the issue was still very much under debate. He said they had seen success with "egg pricking" where contractors go out in May and June to render the eggs of nesting gulls infertile."Eight hundred were done this year, which has certainly reduced the number of seagulls in St Ives, but it hasn't really stopped the problem on the harbour front," he said.Other measures included a mobile van broadcasting the sounds of a distressed seagull, which worked initially until the birds realised it was only coming from the van.Last year falconers were hired to patrol with hawks and it did scare the gulls away, but this means an ongoing cost to the council.Back in Ilfracombe, the problem is compounded when household or trade waste is left out too early.Tomorrow (Thursday) a partnership event organised by the Transform Neighbourhood Wardens, working with the town council, police and other agencies will be held at locations around Ilfracombe to tackle litter problems, raise awareness amongst residents and listen to their concerns.