‘It’s hard to believe that seagulls killed a sheep’

The deaths of two ewes by seagulls in Co. Kerry has been dismissed by Dr. Stephen Newton, Senior Seabird Conservation Officer, Birdwatch Ireland.

John McCrohan, a part-time sheep farmer and rural development officer on the Dingle Peninsula, told Radio Kerry that two of his mature ewes had been killed by seagulls.

Newton has said that he finds it hard to believe that they killed a sheep and that seagulls are coming further inland to scavenge.

“I don’t think they’re that far from the coast in West Kerry near the Dingle Peninsula; they’re just ranging further inland.

“They’re becoming more frequent away from the coast, we’re studying them, where they have increased.

“The sheep were probably stricken in some way and wild animals will scavenge on that,” Newton said.

Newton said that there’s been reports that one of the sheep was already dead and that the seagull was feeding off the cacase, which is only natural.

A part-time sheep farmer himself also, Newton said that he’s had problems with crows and ravens pecking lambs eyes, that they can “demolish them quickly”.

“How many birds have been killed by pet cats? There are a lot of other killers out there, the sheep were probably stricken in some way and animals will scavenge on that.

“Gulls are naturally quite large but they’re not killers. There was a video uploaded of gulls killing rabbits on the Skelligs, they kill puffins; that’s what they do.”

Newton said that there is no case for a cull of seagulls. He said that there needs to be more research done on them.

“We need to know what causes a gull to become a nuisance to man. The herring gull is a protected species, it is red-listed and has declined dramatically over the last 20-30 years.

“We need to know how many we have before we can talk about a cull.”