I am Kevin Newell owner and founder of Humane Wildlife Solutions we are Europe’s only non-lethal, ethical, environmentally friendly alternative to pest control. We help businesses and individuals all over Europe find solutions to wildlife conflicts without causing harm to the wildlife or the environment in the process.
In the spring of 2020 coming out of the first Lockdown I was called to help with two Lesser Black-backed Gull conflicts, one at a
Mosque and the other at a residential property. These clients wanted a non-lethal solution to the problem of being swooped at by parent gulls and they turned to me at Humane Wildlife Solutions to find them a solution.
Here then started the process of applying for a licence from the then
SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage, now NatureScot) to obtain a license to remove these gulls chicks, but we were soon surprised by the limited options the licenses gave us.
When applying for the license we wanted to take the gull chicks alive to a wildlife rescue centre but the only options offered under licence were to kill or destroy, rather than allow for preservation. This is the case for Red and Amber listed species which are in decline, but it seems to me to make no sense that an alternative non-lethal option is not offered or included. So I wrote in my licence application that I wanted to take these gulls to a wildlife rescue centre despite this not being a listed option in the licensing process. My proposal was accepted, so the work was carried out and the gulls went off to a wildlife rescue centre where they were raised and eventually released, along with many other gulls chicks in the same situation as them, having been orphaned or having gotten into trouble.
Across Scotland there are several large wildlife rescues which between them can care for up to a thousand chicks and hundreds of eggs.
It seems to me that the current licensing options are not supporting
SNH’s own conservation advice regarding these species. SNH issues
hundreds of licences allowing the killing of gulls, which is surely only
adding to the problems surrounding the conservation status of the
species which so desperately need our help.
I believe the current licence allowing killing should be a last resort,
with an accountable process in which applicants for licences must show evidence of having exhausted all non-lethal options prior to even considering going down the lethal route. In an ideal world, a lethal route is one which would never need to be attempted.
So why was taking these gulls to the many professional rescue centres in Scotland never an option, despite these centres having years of experience and success with raising and releasing gulls chicks? Surely to take a bird to be reared is the ultimate last non-lethal resort which then would result in every party being happy at the outcome?
I decided then to try and find a way to propose to NatureScot a new idea that would seek consideration to include a new option of taking gull chicks to wildlife rescue centres. This idea gained a lot of support from experts in the area of gull conservation.
We are now at the crucial stage. NatureScot are reviewing the current licensing system and gull licenses, and my proposal has been received and is being considered. This is the moment where NatureScot can get licensing right and be a shining example to the rest of the UK. They can choose to trial this new proposal which can work with the support of all of the different organisations across Scotland. This proposal has been backed with evidence: bird ringing data, a study into ringing of rehabilitated gull chicks, and from gull and wildlife rescue experts.
This new way will see pest control companies, their clients, NatureScot and the gulls all win. Then maybe jointly we will start to see a reverse in gull declines.