Dorset firm Xtreme Falconry provided the two bald eagles, who each have a 7ft wingspan and weigh 10lbs CREDIT: GRAHAM HUNT/BNPS

United Kingdom: Bald eagles deployed to defend beachgoers from 'scary' seagull attacks

Tourism bosses have hired two bald eagles to defend popular coastal beaches amid fears that seagulls are scaring away too many visitors.

Lyme Regis Town Council yesterday deployed two of the carnivorous birds in order to combat the longstanding problem of angry seagullsattacking tourists and eating their food on the beach.

The eagles - named Winnie and Kojak - have been resting on the arms of two handlers while they patrol the promenade of the Victorian resort to act as a deterrent to any nearby seagulls.

The pilot scheme could be extended into the summer in an effort to keep visitor numbers up, as their presence has so far prevented hundreds of gulls swooping down on tourists enjoying the beach.

It is believed to be the first time a council has used eagles to stop seagulls from disturbing people, although Exmouth, Sidmouth and Seaton have all deployed falcons in the past.

Mark Green, Deputy Clerk of Lyme Regis Town Council, said: “We have had an extensive gull problem for some time now and have tried several means of discouraging them from landing. It's not just them stealing people's food - we've had reports of them attacking families unprovoked which has been very scary for those involved.

“If the trial is successful I can definitely see them being used again over the summer. It is certainly not inexpensive so we can't do it every day but maybe during the busiest times.”

In recent years, seagulls have blighted popular seaside resorts by attacking people they see as a threat to young chicks.

Tourism chiefs fear over aggressive seagulls are scaring away visitors 
Tourism chiefs fear over aggressive seagulls are scaring away visitors  CREDIT: GRAHAM HUNT/BNPS

There have been several incidents of people needing hospital treatment after being left bloodied and bruised by the vicious birds.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to 'intentionally injure or kill any gull' or to 'damage or destroy an active nest or its contents'.

Some tourism resorts have resorted to introducing by-laws making it an offence for people to feed seagulls, with warning signs put up to reinforce the message.

Last year, West Dorset council brought in fines of up to £100 for people caught feeding birds in parts of Lyme Regis and West Bay.

However, as the problem of seagull attacks persisted, Dorset firm Xtreme Falconry has intervened by offering the services of the two eagles, who each have a 7ft wingspan and weigh 10lbs.

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