Just two weeks after an Irish senator called for a cull of seagulls a man swimming in the sea has been attacked by the seabird at Fenit in Co. Kerry.
The attack took place on Tuesday afternoon of last week around 75 yards from the shore. Medical attention was needed, senior county council officers have confirmed.
The gull swooped on the man—believed to be a visitor to the area—and returned a second time, even though the swimmer was trying to resist the bird.
The man beat off the gull, but it drew blood from his hand. Lifeguards directed him to the Accident and Emergency Department at Kerry General Hospital where it is understood he received tetanus shots.
Brendan O’Connor, water safety officer with Kerry County Council said in his 40 years of beach and coastal activities this is the first such attack ever reported by lifeguards in Kerry which has 425 miles (684 km) of coastline, one of the longest in the country.
O’Connor believes it is part of a pattern of unusual behavior by gulls. The gull in question was a great black-backed gull, rather than a herring gull, he said.
The black-backed can have a wingspan of up to 6 feet.
“He broke skin—pecked him—and came back for another bite,” the officer said.
The swimmer was simply swimming and was not doing anything unusual “when the gull swooped on him,” he added.
“He was beating off the gull and trying to attract the attention of the life guards,” he said.
The odds of them catching the gulprit are very low. http://t.co/Q64qL856od— Killian Woods (@killianwoods) August 4, 2015
Some 32 lifeguards are employed by the council along Kerry’s blue flag beaches which stretch from Derrynane to Ballybunion.
The swimmer, who was near the buoys off Fenit beach, a traditional target for long distance and strong swimmers, tried to summon the attention of the two lifeguards while attempting to beat off the gull.
“This is the first time I have ever heard of such an attack by a gull on a swimmer,” Mr O’Connor said.
The incident took place at around 4.30 pm and the lifeguards advised the injured swimmer to go for tetanus shots.
The attack is the latest in a number of extraordinary reports of aggressive behavior by seagulls in Kerry this year including the killing of two mountain ewes near Lispole in west Kerry and an attack on a motorcyclist in south Kerry.
Micheál O’Coileain, the environmental officer with the council, said the fact that there are no landfill sites now in Kerry, or indeed in the whole region, may be a factor in the gulls' strange behavior including their movement further and further inland.
Traditionally gulls would have fed on the landfills.
Meanwhile, in a sign that they are moving further and further inland in Kerry, gulls are now commonly seen on the Killarney lakes.
This is a person talking about a sea gull in Kerry pic.twitter.com/PH5vJYnSIZ— Warren Swords (@warrenswords) July 23, 2015
Two weeks ago, Irish Senator Denis O’Donovan called on his colleagues to crack down on seagulls after a woman had her phone stolen by a seagull.
"I'm asking for a debate on this very important issue. Seagulls are actually becoming a nuisance and a pest,” he commented.
"I think it's important that we should consider Senator O'Sullivan's request last year that we should look at a cull on this vicious seabird, which is against our grain, they were normally living out at sea.
"They nest on the cliffs, but they are now invading the towns and the villages."
In France, where aggressive gulls are moving onto the Loire river system in the center of the country and are being blamed for the disappearance of domestic animals in Nice in the south, sterilization is being considered, according to recent reports in La Nouvelle Republique.