Experts use falconry to move seagulls in Morro Bay

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Morro Bay’s tourist season coincides with seagull nesting season, which results in an unpleasant experience for some visitors.

“Oh, they’re crazy. They’ll pick a car and bomb a single car and poop on it,” said Michele Waldrop, sales clerk at Poppy’s shop.

Whether stealing food or chasing tourists, these birds can be a problem for some people.

“Usually kids are more scared than adults, but I’ve seen adults run away from them, yeah,” Waldrop said.

Hired by the city and under contract with Airstrike Bird Control, the falconers work to keep the gulls away from the Embarcadero.

“Our job is basically to make the seagulls uncomfortable,” said Anita Wolf, falconer with The Falconry Experience and Airstrike Bird Control.

Through the use of trained falcons and lasers, they move the seagulls.

“And then they just go back to where they’re supposed to be, like on the sandbar, and eat fish like they’re designed to do,” Wolf said.

The falconers explained that the relocation process does not harm the seagulls.

“So we have to train them to chase the seagulls, but not to kill them, which is actually very easy. It’s more like a game for them, so they don’t hurt them,” said Samantha Jackson, The Falconry Experience and Falconer Airstrike Bird Control.

The falconers aim a green laser at the seagulls. Then, a five-year-old hawk named Ranger patiently waits for instructions, then flies after the seagulls on command.

“We’re going to point the laser at the seagull. The hawk will fly to where the laser is, and then the seagull, of course, will move around,” Wolf said.

At night the falconers return with the laser which is much easier to see in the dark.

“And we’ll run it over the roofs of all the buildings here and it’ll push all the seagulls back into the areas where they’re supposed to be,” Wolf said.

Ranger the Falcon’s safety is also kept in mind. He wears a tracker that allows falconers to monitor his every move and locate him if he gets lost.

In the first week, they say they removed about 75% of the Embarcadero’s gulls, although falconers say they will continue to remove gulls for the next nine weeks.

“It’s only been about a week and it’s been a lot less. A lot less,” Waldrop said.

Jackson says she expected to be pushed away by people who liked to feed the seagulls and have them around, but that didn’t happen. She says people are delighted to see the falconers coming and the seagulls flying away.

Falconers ask people not to feed the seagulls because processed foods are not good for the birds and that’s what attracts them to the Embarcadero.

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