New Jersey

Battle for the Skies: Ocean City Turns to Birds of Prey to Combat ‘Aggressive' Seagulls

Ocean City will use falcons, hawks and owls to ward off increasingly aggressive seagulls that steal people's food

You're walking around the boardwalk, ready to bite into your delicious fries, and just when you're about to put one in your mouth, it happens: an aerial attacker swoops down and steals your food right from under your nose.

It's a growing, gross, scary and infuriating problem plaguing Ocean City. But now the town has a new plan to combat snack-stealing seagulls: pit bird against bird in a battle for the skies.

On Friday, the New Jersey city announced that birds of prey will provide an overhead patrol force in an effort to scare away the food-guzzling gulls, and the plan is more humane than it might initially seem.

The move comes after Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian penned an open letter last month, asking for people's help in combating the "aggressive" birds and noting that they pose a public safety hazard.

The new plan will see the town contract with East Coast Falcons to release falcons, hawks and owls every day between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. as a way of warding off hungry seagulls and making them return to their natural diet, city spokesman Doug Bergen said.

"When East Coast Falcon's professionals fly the raptors overhead, gulls know instinctively to leave an unsafe place. Professional falconry-based bird abatement is a humane, effective solution for removing nuisance birds," Bergen said. The Humane Society of Ocean City also gave its approval, he added.

The birds of prey program will cost the Jersey Shore town about $2,100 daily.

While Bergen said the plan may be the first to be used in any East Coast shore town, using birds of prey to scare off other, unwanted avian species is not new. In Southern California, "The Hawk Pros" are just one of a number of companies in the bird-abatement business.

If the plan works in Ocean City, it may stick around, Bergen said. The program will be in place through the end of August and if it's successful, it could return next summer.

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