Gulls – a perennial problem in St Andrews. They cause mayhem and mess around the town, descending to grab any scraps of food, ripping open rubbish bags and invading bins wherever they can.
Now the new organisation in town, BID St Andrews, has stepped in to the fray.
The organisation’s Clean and Green section has commissioned a scientific study of gull – and human – activity in the town centre BID area.
It’s being carried out by St Andrews University student Grania Smith, who has been walking up to 90 miles a week around the town collecting key data on the gulls – that includes their numbers and species, where they’re nesting, what they’re eating, locations of rubbish, and whether the gulls are eating rubbish or food being eaten on the street.
The resulting report, including hotspot and species maps, will help the BID and its partners decide how to address the gull problem. Already, the team recognises the necessity of taking a whole-town approach to avoid gulls simply moving from an action area to a neighbouring one.
The university’s Professor Will Cresswell, of the Department of Biology, explained: “Gulls nesting and feeding in towns can be important to both the humans and wildlife concerned, which is why it’s important to survey it properly. This is a great first step because you need accurate information to tackle any issue in the most effective way.”
Studies elsewhere in Scotland have found that gulls can live for 25-30 years with complex behaviours and need long-term, flexible management strategies.
Once Grania’s report has been received, expected to be in October, BID St Andrews will work with an expert to interpret the findings, and with stakeholders and partners to decide on how to tackle the issues and develop an action plan based on best practice research and management.
Lindsey Adam, the BID St Andrews Board member responsible for the Gull Project, said: “An informed, targeted, effective response to this issue is what is needed.
“It’s really good that we can work with the university – to tap into that expertise on our doorstep is ideal and another example of BID St Andrews working collaboratively with its stakeholders. We very much appreciate their help.”
And Grania is loving her work: “It’s great to get practical experience of a real conservation issue as part of my university course. It’s also enjoyable talking to people about the gulls and hearing their stories.”