DIVE-BOMBING seagulls have been causing such havoc to mourners at Eastbourne Crematorium that a team of hawks has been hired to keep them at bay.
People visiting the site to lay flowers, tend to plots or simply spend a quiet few moments of reflection at the graves of loved ones were being targeted by the birds, many of whom had taken to nesting on the roof.
And the gulls were even attacking people as they left the chapel after attending funeral services – leaving Eastbourne Borough Council no choice but to call in an expert pest control team.
Around eight breeding pairs of gulls had made their home at the crematorium during what is traditionally their nesting period. That runs until the end of September and the birds can become particularly aggressive during this period.
The local authority has therefore turned to Cleankill Environmental Services to tackle the problem and the firm’s solution includes using birds of prey to scare the gulls from the rooftop.
Paul Bates, managing director of Cleankill, explained, “The crematorium complex has a flat roof which provides an ideal nesting site. We decided it would be best to try to reduce the population over a period of time and start a programme of removing nests and the eggs.
“Alongside this work, we bring in our hawks once a week early on a Thursday morning before the funerals start. The hawks fly at the seagulls and scatter them which makes them uncomfortable. Eventually they decide to find another nesting site.”
That is the plan at least.
Councillor Margaret Bannister, head of bereavement services at the council, explained the thinking behind bringing in the birds. “Staff at the crematorium were becoming aware of the problems that the seagulls were causing to people attending services or visiting the grounds,” she said.
“It was felt that we had to call in bird control experts as the last thing crematorium visitors want is to have to worry about being attacked by seagulls.
“The hawk solution has proved very effective, with the benefit that it does not harm the gulls. We believe that by calling in professional experts we have helped to alleviate the problem.”