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Pest alert across Scotland as gulls swoop to wreak havoc

SCOTLAND is under siege from birds and mice as pest control workers reveal a significant rise in call-outs.

PESTS: Gulls.
PESTS: Gulls.

New league tables show the number of requests made for pest controllers to deal with birds has risen from 1318 in 2011, to 1765 last year, an increase of 33%.

There has also been a 13% jump in the number of call-outs to deal with mice, from 13,000 in 2011 to almost 14,700 last year.

Some experts say the rise in reports about birds is down to gulls increasingly moving in to urban areas near the coast for food.

For problems with mice, the Clackmannanshire council area is Scotland's hotspot, with 6.57 call-outs per 1000 of population last year. Second in the league tables produced by the British Pest Control Association was North Lanarkshire (5.9) followed by Edinburgh (5.13), East Dunbartonshire (4.83), West Lothian (4.51) and Glasgow (4.2).

The Angus council area, which has a problem with gulls, topped the chart for issues with birds, with 2.28 call-outs per 1000 last year. There have been accounts of people being attacked by scavenging gulls and the council has used hawks and falcons to disturb birds in Arbroath and Montrose town centres in the hope of moving gulls out of town to nest.

The council also provides a nest and egg removal service.

Arbroath councillor Martyn Geddes said there was an issue with gulls becoming used to scare tactics. "Gulls appear to be a bit quicker in getting used to things that are supposed to scare them," he said. "Unless you have a bird of prey regularly they will just come back. They are just after food. They know the times to come.

"If there's always something there to scare them the area will be fine but coming once a month won't do it."

It has been suggested a ­man-made bird of prey placed permanently at a site might scare them away. But Mr Geddes said a man-made prowler owl used in Dundee was not as effective as first thought after birds were seen gathering round the deterrent.

"They seem to learn quickly when there is something not to fear, and won't fear it," said Mr Geddes.

Second in the bird pests league table was Aberdeen (2.27 call-outs per 1000 of population), followed by Shetland (1.65), Dundee (1.14) and East Ayrshire (0.86).

Laurence Barnard, of the British Pest Control Association, said the rise in call-outs was not necessarily a bad thing, as it meant pest problems were being dealt with.

But he also warned the survey showed the number of council pest-controllers in Scotland had dropped from 93 to 83: "Hence we would say this is a cut in service".

Mr Barnard added: "An increased pest activity can be due to a number of reasons - most notably the weather," he said. "I would be more concerned about those councils not providing service and leaving their residents to deal with pest problems themselves."

Clackmannanshire Councillor Donald Balsillie said he believed the numbers showed that his local authority had "one of the most comprehensive and ­responsive pest control services in Scotland".

He added: "In my view, we did not have an excessive pest ­problem in 2012, but offered a free service for rat and mice control. Many other local authorities offer a reduced pest-control service or have higher pest-control charges, which is likely to impact on the number of cases being reported."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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