Headache that won’t go away

Old joke: Why are seagulls called seagulls? Answer – Because if they flew over the bay, they’d be called bagels.

What to do about seagulls at Swantown? Those inconsiderate, over-abundant birds have been pooping all over the docks and the expensive boats moored at the Port of Olympia’s high-quality marina.

It’s no laughing matter because the bird poop is a public safety hazard, as well as an annoyance to anyone who has ever owned a boat. Seagulls can carry diseases and their feces have been known to cause infectious diseases in humans.

From a practical point of view, the bird droppings cause real damage to boats and port facilities through corrosion, not to mention the ongoing cost of cleaning up the birds’ mess.

Having tried to shoo the birds away nicely with loud noises and playing tapes of hawk and falcon cries, the port finally turned to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is allowed to kill a certain number of the birds every year. The USDA used lethal force, aka pellet guns, to kill 150 gulls and send a message that they aren’t welcome in Swantown any more.

The port took no different action than a homeowner, having tried various means of ridding their property of ants, rats or wasps, who calls in a pest control expert. It is sometimes necessary to eradicate pests.

The USDA says it hardly ever reaches its allotted number of seagull kills around the Puget Sound, despite the birds causing similar problems at most marinas. Even boat owners who anchor their vessels during the summer season are plagued with seagull issues.

The long-term solution, however, is for everyone concerned – boat owners, the port, surrounding businesses and homeowners – to eliminate what attracts the birds in the first place: keeping food sources covered and secure.