The Township of Minden Hills will move ahead with a plan to rid the Scotch Line landfill and nearby Mountain Lake of hundreds of seagulls a multi-pronged process that will entail killing some of the birds.
During a Sept. 13 committee-of-the-whole meeting councillors granted pre-approval to a contract with company Rentokil-Steritech for the eradication of the gulls.
During an Aug. 30 meeting two Mountain Lake residents made presentations to council about the hundreds of gulls that continue to litter the lake and waterfront properties with feces feathers and garbage. The south end of Mountain Lake is located in close proximity to the landfill and residents have made similar presentations in years past.
“It’s basically the same report I wrote before” said environmental and property operations manager Ivan Ingram as he presented council with his recommendation. In 2016 Ingram presented council with a report that included a number of options for dealing with gulls including a contract to Rentokil.
The company’s approach includes the removal of gull eggs and nests for which it must obtain a permit. That part of the process would begin in the spring. It also scares birds away from the areas they’ve been inhabiting through a variety of tactics including sound blasters clackers and birds of prey in the form of falcons and hawks.
“They are killing birds so they will kill as well” Ingram said. “They’re a natural predator.”
The company will also assist the municipality in obtaining a permit from Canadian Wildlife Services for the scaring and killing of birds with a limit of up to 45 kills per year. Any gulls killed by the birds of prey would be in addition to this.
In the meantime the township is working to make it more difficult for the birds to find food at the dump.
“The key to this whole thing is getting to their food sources” Ingram said explaining that new bins were in place at the landfill and that covering was taking place much more frequently.
“I’m really not convinced this is going to work” said Councillor Jeanne Anthon whose Ward 1 includes Mountain Lake.
“What kind of kill are they talking about?” she asked Ingram.
“Shooting them” he said.
“And that 45 per year . . . so we have 15 years’ worth of shooting if the other tactics don’t work” Anthon said.
Ingram said the company already knew where the gull nests were located and explained that it shouldn’t actually require the shooting of many birds for them to get the picture.
Once a sound blaster is used “it scares all the seagulls away then a scout comes back – one seagull” Ingram said. “You shoot that seagull. Then another scout will come back and you shoot that one.”
That process continues until the flock realizes it’s not safe to return.
“They really don’t like to be killed” Ingram said.
In addition to the birds that are shot Mayor Brent Devolin said it was likely the birds of prey would terminate others.
“That’s the other part of the diversion” he said.
Devolin noted that the company seems to have a track record of success.
“We have to take a leap of faith that they know what they’re doing” he said.
The process will involve disturbing the birds from any secondary food sources including local businesses with the permission of the business owners.
“I appreciate the work that our residents have done on this but I also want to comment that there was no need for that work because this was proposed to us in 2016 and we didn’t act on it” said Councillor Pam Sayne.
“I think this has been a delay of council and now we’re finally acting on it” Sayne continued. “This is not new and I think it’s too bad that we had to leave it up to our residents.”
Anthon took exception to Sayne’s comments.
“I’m offended by Councillor Sayne’s comments about council not giving due consideration to this recommendation” Anthon said. “We spent a lot of time on it. I lost some sleep on it.”
Anthon noted that a task force had recommended that the removal of food sources at the Scotch Line landfill would be a much more effective solution.
“And that was supposed to happen immediately and it didn’t” she said. “So I would like Councillor Sayne to withdraw that comment that we did not give due consideration.”
“We all lost sleep on this” Sayne responded.
“This information was brought to us in the same way” she said. “I will not withdraw my comment.”
“In the past what has not been done is over and done with” said Deputy Mayor Cheryl Murdoch. “The important thing right now is we’re going to take a severe look at this and deal with it.”
Murdoch said the proposal might not be enough and that gull mitigation could become an ongoing responsibility for the municipality.
“This is an ongoing thing” she said. “Every year it’s something we’ll have to look at.”
The cost for the program for a year is approximately $35000 which the township can pay in monthly instalments.