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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019

Giant seagulls have been killing sheep on the Dingle Peninsula

More tales of aggressive birds – including one who dove at a motorcyclist “like a Second World War Stuka”.

IT’S THE PEAK of their breeding season at the moment – and as a result, seagulls are very much on the political agenda once again.

It seems to happen around this time every year: last summer – as you may recall – Kerry senator Ned O’Sullivan called for something to be done about the creatures, saying they had “lost the run of themselves completely”.

Over the weekend, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to “start a big conversation” about what could be done about the gulls in the UK.

And on Monday, another Kerry senator – O’Sullivan’s Fianna Fáil colleague Denis O’Donovan – added his voice to the debate, also suggesting control measures, and describing the behaviour of the nation’s herring gulls as like “a cow with mad cow disease”.

Terrifying tales from Kerry

For a number of reasons (Alfred Hitchcock movies, the fact that they’re birds) it’s not an issue people are inclined to take all that seriously – but, in some parts of the country at least, it appears the creatures are becoming more than just an occasional nuisance.

Speaking to Radio Kerry yesterday John McCrohan – a part-time sheep farmer and rural development officer – said he “firmly” agreed with Senator O’Donovan’s comments on the gulls.

Recounting an incident that happened in early June, he said he had had to put-down two adult sheep after they were attacked by a number of gulls.

McCrohan – who farms near Annascaul on the Dingle Peninsula – said the mature ewes, which were not yet shorn, had been left with horrific injuries as a result of the encounter, and that he had had no option but to put them out of their misery.

“The thing that alarmed me was that these things weren’t inclined to fly away,” McCrohan said.

“Now I had a stick with me as a sheep-farmer normally would, and I gave them a short shrift.

But the thing about it is they didn’t really go that far. They were hanging around.

shutterstock_218428327 Source: Shutterstock/Evandro Maluf

He told host Jerry O’Sullivan he had been “amazed at the size of them”.

“I suppose I had never really seen them that up close before… They were absolutely aggressive, and to be quite honest with you I was in a certain degree of alarm for my own safety.”

He “wouldn’t have been inclined to take them on” if he didn’t have his stick, the farmer added.

The amount of damage done by the aggressive birds was “something else,” he said.

Then I was left with orphan lambs I had to sort out… Fine, sort them out – bring them in as pets. But that’s economically not viable, as any sheep farmer will know.

Dive bombers

Also speaking to Kerry Today, a motorcyclist spoke of a narrow escape from a determined seagull, who had attempted to knock him off his bike near Waterville.

It ”nearly knocked my head off” he said – noting that it had come at him ”like a Second World War Stuka” and that the gull ”knew what he was doing”.

shutterstock_163845158 Source: Shutterstock/CBCK

By way of balance, it should be pointed out that herring gulls are a protected species – and studies have shown their population is down by a whopping 90 per cent in the last two decades.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the reduction in population is partly as a result of better management of municipal dumps, where the gulls would once have gathered in large numbers to feed.

There has been “no change” to their status, a spokesperson for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said.

Read: Vicious seagulls behaving like cows “with mad cow disease” – FF senator

Read: A senator wants something done about ‘raucous seagulls stealing children’s lollipops’

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