Scotch Line seagulls destined for death row
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | September 20, 2018|
Minden Hills council has declared war on the Scotch Line landfill seagulls - at a cost of more than $30,000 for taxpayers.
Ivan Ingram, environmental and property operations manager, is recommending council hire Rentokil-Steritech to tackle a problem that has been ongoing for three years, and led to a fiery delegation by a Mountain Lake cottager at the end of August. This was on top of an earlier Mountain Lake Property Owners’ Association complaint to council.
Ingram said Rentokil would help the township to get a permit from the Canadian Wild Life Services, which will allow them to cull 45 gulls a year and remove unlimited eggs from the landfill. The cull number does not include the number of gulls that would be killed by a bird of prey at the landfill, such as a hawk or falcon.
Ingram said the company would also look for nesting sites, not just at the landfill, but at participating businesses. For example, he said Canadian Tire is a popular nesting site for seagulls as is the township’s community centre and arena. Rentokil removes not only eggs, but nests as well.
Ingram said the company would come to the landfill at least once a week to scare the birds, using things such as pyro, scare balloons and clackers, which do not require a permit. Things that do require permits include birds of prey, that are trained in attacking and killing gulls at the landfill, and, with permission, at Mountain Lake.
Rentokil’s quote is $31,200 excluding HST ($35,256 total) and a requested $5,000 contingency. Another company, Hawkeye, quoted a price of $35,143 including HST.
“The cost for the proposed seagull remediation plan for Scotch Line Waste Disposal Site and Recycling Centre was notincluded in the 2018 budget. Staff recommends that funds be taken from reserves pending a departmental surplus,” Ingram said in his Sept. 13 report.
He emphasized that cutting the food source to the gulls is key and staff had been covering the landfill twice a day since July. However, he said the birds are still gathering during the hours of operation to scavenge. The purpose of the cover material is to help mask the smell of the landfill, deter scavenging animals such as bears, vermin and seagulls and minimize the amount of debris being scattered by the wind.
He said staff had earlier researched everything from falcons, sound blasters, bird spiders, pike stands, elevated mesh blankets, coyote/owl decoys, bobble head cats and large red balloons but they’re temporary measures with the seagulls eventually returning to the site. That’s why getting at the eggs and nests are key, according to Ingram.
He added that staff is currently building a retaining wall that will house two custom made bins that will collect all household waste during the day. The bins have lids so they can be closed after operating hours keeping any vector or vermin from accessing them.
“Once a bin is full it will be moved to the garbage face where it will be immediately compacted and covered. This pilot project can be used in association with other methods of remediation to remove the gulls from the site,” his report states.
Answering a question from CAO and treasurer Lorrie Blanchard, Ingram said they could notify residents around the landfill about the pending noise. He added it would make sense to do the work on Wednesdays since the landfill is already closed. He said he understood the sensitivity around an 11-year-old child, for example, seeing a hawk take down a gull. Council is expected to formally adopt a plan and approve expenditures at its regular meeting at the end of this month.
Seagulls lead to council skirmish
During the debate, Coun. Pam Sayne said she and her fellow councillors had known about the problem and possible mitigation since 2016 but it took a delegation to get council to take action. However, councillors Jean Neville, Jeanne Anthon and Lisa Schell disagreed.
Neville said past action recommended by staff were going to cost a lot of money with little or no effect. She said they wanted more information. “I really don’t think we can blame our council for not taking action,” she said.
Anthon said she’d spent a lot of time on the issue and lost sleep over it, and noted a task force had been struck. She said she was offended by Sayne’s remarks and asked her to withdraw them. Sayne refused and Anthon rebutted, “It was given due consideration. I stand by my word.”
Deputy-Mayor Cheryl Murdoch said council had received some important information “and was taking a severe look at this and dealing with it. It’s basically come to a head right now.” However, she warned, “this is an ongoing thing. Every year it’s going to have to be looked at.” Coun. Ron Nesbitt added, “Let’s not worry about the past, let’s worry about the future.”
While the motion was being written, Schell said the debate when the staff report came in 2016 was also around money, as the cost represented .5 per cent of the tax base.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.