A LEADING South Lakeland conservationist has urged Kendal residents to be more tolerant of gulls after hearing anecdotal reports that the birds are becoming more prevalent.

Claire Hewick has noticed the increase in numbers, particularly around Kirkbie Kendal School, and expressed concern about the appearance of the larger Herring Gull which she felt was gaining a foothold.

She said that she first became aware of the Herring Gulls around the end of April and towards the beginning of May.

“It was the noise - basically between three and five in the morning, every morning,” she said. “It was really, really loud.”

Ms Hewick pointed to the perceived problems that some areas, particularly those on the coast, have had with gulls - with the birds taking people’s food and making lots of noise.

She also referred to news reports describing a chihuahua named Gizmo being carried off by a gull in Paignton, Devon.

However, David Harpley, conservation manager with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said that people should probably “be a bit more tolerant” of Herring Gulls, which have a ‘red’ conservation status - indicating the species is threatened and in decline.

He said: “They are noisy. They will try and steal your chips but it’s not really the end of civilisation as we know it.”

Mr Harpley thought there might be a small nesting colony of Herring Gulls near to Kendal, but he believed this had been there for a number of years.

He added human actions had contributed to the declining number of gulls - for example, changing fishing habits (and less fish being available) and changes to the management of landfill sites, a source of food for the birds.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, to whom Ms Hewick expressed her concerns, wrote a letter on her behalf to South Lakeland District Council (SLDC).

In Mr Farron’s return letter to Ms Hewick, he said that Herring Gulls were a protected species and moves to diminish their numbers “might be difficult.” He added that the council did not share her concerns, based on the lack of similar complaints on the subject.

“The council does, however, share your views on educating people not to feed and thereby encourage the birds," adding there were measures which could be taken against those who "ignore such requests."