Warning after gull attack in Sidmouth

Former councillor Ian Stewart next to the current EDDC signage

Former councillor Ian Stewart next to the current EDDC signage - Credit: Archant

A grandfather is urging the public to ‘watch where they eat’ - after his face was scratched in a seagull attack on Sidmouth seafront.

Ian Stewart's lip was cut when a seagull tried to steal his sandwich

Ian Stewart's lip was cut when a seagull tried to steal his sandwich - Credit: Archant

Former Exmouth town councillor Ian Stewart was visiting with his wife and two grandsons when they stopped for a sandwich – and then a bird swooped down and lunged for his lunch, slicing his lip in the process.

He is urging council bosses to put paying members of the public ahead of the protected species and have a ‘major rethink’ to keep people safe from seagulls.

“I was just about to take a bite of my sandwich when all I saw was a flash of white going past my right side and a sharp pain on my face,” said the 68-year-old.

“I remember looking at my right arm and wondering why there was blood on it.

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“To my horror, I suddenly realised that a seagull had swooped from behind me and pecked my face and lip.

“It was obviously trying to take the sandwich, but I had moved it so close to my mouth that there was hardly any room for the gull to get through, so it ended up grabbing my face instead of the food.

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“The incident was most upsetting for our eldest grandson, who was sitting next to me, eating a pot of cockles. Fortunately, for him, the gull picked me out as a target.”

He said as a former Exmouth town councillor, he knows ‘only too well’ the problems seagulls pose to coastal communities – but that day he was a visitor to Sidmouth and he was not the only tourist targeted.

“I know they are a protected species, but so are we and, as humans, we contribute far more to the local economy,” added Mr Stewart.

“I also understand that mankind has exacerbated the gull problem by feeding them and irresponsible littering.”

In a letter to East Devon District Council (EDDC), he wrote: “The emphasis surely should now be on educating the public not to eat in full view of gulls and to be aware, that if you eat out, you are a target, possibly when you least expect it and from any direction.

“Maybe the takeaway food sellers could give the same advice – ‘watch where you eat it’.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said “Unfortunately, innocent people often become affected by the learned behaviour of gulls developed over many generations.

“These are wild birds and it is now their natural behaviour to scavenge.

“We will continue to focus on encouraging members of the public and owners of commercial premises to take positive measures and to increase the awareness of members of the public who may be contributing to or affected by bird behaviour.”

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