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(Updated 13/7/01)

Seagull pecks yorkie to death

A YORKSHIRE Terrier was found dead in its owner’s garden last week with a head wound which suggested it had been attacked and killed by a marauding seagull.

The nine-year-old dog named Poppy weighed just under 4lb and would have stood little or no chance against a sustained attack by a gull with a wingspan of five feet and a razor sharp bill.

Poppy’s body was found in her back garden by her owner Patricia Dawson when she returned to her home in Brixham, Devon. A distraught Mrs Dawson found that Poppy had a beak-sized hole in her head which indicated a sudden attack by a sharp point, such as a gull’s beak. A subsequent port mortem by a vet indicated that Poppy had died from a fractured skull, but could have lain for several hours before bleeding to death.

Attacks by seagulls on domestic pets are rare, but not unknown. At this time of year - the height of the birds’ breeding season - the gull in question may have been a mother trying to protect her young.

Graham Madge of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “Gulls can be quite intimidating. They often nest on flat roofs in seaside towns and when the young are quite advanced in the nest, they may be testing out their wings for the first time.

Attack

“It may be that one took a spill, fell out of the nest and the terrier went over to investigate.

“The mother would then have launched an attack to protect her young. It’s a horrendous incident and very distressing for the owner.

Mrs Dawson has three other dogs, another Yorkshire Terrier and two Dachshunds. She and her neighbour have now fitted chicken wire around their chimneys to discourage nesting gulls. They also plan to buy six-foot high fruit cage netting to enclose their whole rear gardens.

Gulls are getting bolder in their dealings with humans and other animals. Two week ago, a 61 year-old pensioner needed treatment after being set upon by a flock of gulls just along the coast in Exmouth, Devon.

Many gulls are attracted to seaside towns because of the easy pickings from rubbish bins and by being fed by tourists.

Torbay Council is displaying posters urging the public not to feed the gulls and is asking holidaymakers to dump their rubbish in gull-proof covered bins.

Council leader Richard Cuming said that gulls are ignoring their traditional feeding pursuits of following fishing boats in favour of scavenging fish and chips and sandwiches in the town.

“You only have to look at how few gulls follow the fishing boats to realise that for an easy catch the gull just waits outside its nearest takeaway.

“If people heed our request not to feed them, it would help reduce the number of gull and the problems they bring.”