Seagulls in the Netherlands: villains, yet protected by law

Ah, seagulls. The ultimate winged villains, just always ready to fly down and reign chaos on unsuspecting people.

It has happened so many times to notice seagulls ganging up on people enjoying their little croquette or herring. Relentless, predatory and ambitious, the seagulls will find a way to snatch it from your hand.

Just chilling on the beach and have some food in packaging while you’re off to take a swim? Worry not, the seagulls will come down and rip the packaging and fly off with your food.

Waiting for you to get up so they can come to snatch your snacks. Image: Mammyia/Pixabay

The way people tend to deal with these kinds of animals is to shoot them and in typical human fashion, probably drive them to extinction. However, in the Netherlands, seagulls are protected by law. Why you may ask? The truth is, we don’t really know. I guess the Dutch like to accommodate for all beings, human or not, that live in the country.

In defence of seagulls

I’m not a big fan of seagulls myself, but there is a point to be made about them. Most animals struggle to thrive in urban environments, which is why many go extinct or are pushed out of cities to rural areas. Seagulls, on the other hand, are not only ever-present in cities, but they also thrive in these kinds of environments. Normally, they are sea-faring birds, but you can find them deep inland, where there are delicious trashbags to rip open in cities.

You see a dirty scavenger, I see a survivor. Image: elukac/Pixabay

Birds, in general, are well-suited for urban living, as they have high mobility and can travel wherever they want, not limited by urban obstacles. Crows and ravens are a great example of such birds, whose intelligence and problem-solving helps them to successfully navigate urban life.

As such, seagulls deserve our respect simply because they are able to survive in the heavily modified environments we developed in the last two centuries. Sure, they are not as gracious and mysterious as ravens are, given that they have more of a schoolyard bully stealing your lunch money kind of approach to problem-solving. But hey, no judgement!

Attempts to control the population

The Dutch have tried to deal with the seagulls before, but it has failed, given their adaptability. Now the seagulls are allowed to roam free through the sky of the Netherlands.

Several ineffective measures were applied in the past to deal with the pesky seagulls. For example, people tried to hunt them down with falcons. However, the method is ineffective, especially for the falcons, which tend to get hurt in urban areas.

People have tried to reintroduce foxes in the dunes to control the population of seagulls, but our lovely birds have replaced the dunes for the city, so also ineffective. People have also tried to shoot the gulls, but something about carrying weapons in urban centres and shooting them in the air seems quite ineffective and slightly American.

Lastly, there’s been attempts to replace their eggs with fake eggs, but this too has turned out to be ineffective and expensive. Overall, seagulls see through human plots against them.

The seagulls see through your lies. Image: cocoparisienne/Pixabay

A protected species in Holland

All seagull species in the country are protected by the Nature Conservation Act. What this means is that you cannot disturb, capture or kill any seagulls. You’re also not allowed to remove their nests nor their eggs, so if you have one that nested straight on your balcony, bad luck to you friend. Jokes aside, you can probably call Animal Services to come to assist you if that is really the case. 📞🆘

What do Animal Protection services believe? Well, they have some tips on dealing with seagulls safely. Among these measures include putting anti-nesting sticks on buildings and placing wires on rooftops to also prevent nesting. They also suggest not letting your garbage bags or exposed food on the street, which should be a sensible idea even without seagulls.

Overall, seagulls are here to stay, at least in the Netherlands. Try not to feed them, befriend them, make eye contact with them. Let them be and they’ll leave you alone. Just kidding, keep your frietjes safe while walking!

What has your experience with seagulls been? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Feature Image: cocoparisienne/Pixabay

This article was originally published in March 2021, and was fully updated in September 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.



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