Flying poop prevention gets strong response from downtown businesses

The DVBA’s “Gull Grant” program has proven so popular with Victoria business owners that the deadline has been extended to Sept. 30 for those still hoping to hop on the poop-prevention bandwagon.

Michael Forbes of Ocean 98.5 plays seagull 'Craps' with the flying bingo squawkers.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s — no, wait, it is a bird. And that bird has been dumping a whole lot of trouble on city shopkeepers, according to the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

Not to fear, introducing the DVBA’s “Gull Grant” program to the rescue: saving hundreds of innocent companies from those dastardly bad guys dressed in white above. The response from Victoria business owners was so strong for the program, in fact, that the DVBA has just extended its deadline to Sept. 30 for those still hoping to hop on the poop-prevention bandwagon.

It’s no news to residents that summer — for that matter, anytime of year — will see an influx of seagull activity in this coastal city. But experts and those with smeared experiences, believe this summer has seen a greater than usual inundation of the birds.

The reports could be true. Cool weather and invading bald eagles have been cited as potential reasons the gulls are sticking in Victoria a little more these days. It’s not just locals, but tourists have also taken note of the gulls, which some have coined as more of “a species of flying cow,” due to the disturbing amount of whitewash the birds are able to splash across great metres of sidewalk, cars and — of course — pedestrians.

Never mind the angry owner of the new black BMW convertible, or the customer lavishly enjoying a seagull-flavoured patio beer. The DVBA is offering grants of up to 50 per cent of the cost of materials and hired labour — to a maximum of $350 — for owners within downtown boundaries who wish to install any rooftop devices designed to prevent the roosting or perching of seagulls.

“The program is designed to help, not just the business owners, but as many people as possible,” says Ken Kelly, general manager of the DVBA. “You can walk down the street and see these major pools of bird poop, and we need to be doing something to prevent these gulls from just sitting there and pooping over the sides of these buildings.”

Kelly says prevention measures can come in the form of trip wires, prickly wire and other deterrents. However, it should be noted that the DVBA is not advocating for anyone to hurt the birds, only change their patterns.

The DVBA isn’t the only group eyeballing the effect of gulls. Michael Forbes, co-host of the Forbes and Marshall Show on Ocean 98.5, decided to take a lighter approach and play a game of “Craps” with the birds. After countless carwashes, Forbes instead taped a relative bingo board to the roof of his van, promising to award listeners who could guess the right splotched on number. Winners were given a free dinner to none other than the White Spot.

“Everyone has a seagull poop story, and it really doesn’t matter what you do — it’s only a matter of time,” says Forbes. “The highest risk time, I think, is just after you wash your car. It’s some sort of beacon calling out to them.”

Seagulls are technically classified as songbirds, meaning it’s illegal in Canada to injure or eat the gulls. But while the city is working to deter the birds from areas they are naturally drawn to, some say it’s just another effort to push out what the city isn’t comfortable with accepting — free nesters.

“[Seagulls] come as part of the cost of living on the coastline,” says Solo, who’s been living on the streets of Victoria for 15 years. “So much of the crap we see on the ground is actually from pigeons, but we’ve done this to ourselves — we leave our garbage out, we build tall buildings that attract them, then we want to shoo them away.”

Solo says he’s been bombed by seagulls a few times, but it doesn’t really bother him — he sees the gulls as having a right to be there.

“We need to just leave them alone, and they’ll move on in their own time. People want to install trip wires and all these damaging deterrents, but why not just use the old farmer’s trick of an eagle statue?” he says. “People don’t realize that this is exactly what happens when you mess with nature.” M

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