Morro Bay tourist season coincides with nesting season for seagulls, leading to an unpleasant experience for some visitors.
“Oh, they’re crazy. They’ll pick a car and dive bomb just one car and poop all over it,” said Michele Waldrop, a salesperson at Poppy boutique.
From stealing food to chasing tourists, these birds can be a problem for some people.
“Usually, the kids are more scared than the adults, but I’ve seen some adults run from them before, yes,” Waldrop said.
Hired by the city and contracted through Airstrike Bird Control, falconers are working to keep the seagulls away from the Embarcadero.
“Our job is basically to make the seagulls feel uncomfortable,” said Anita Wolf, The Falconry Experience and Airstrike Bird Control falconer.
Through the use of trained falcons and lasers, they are relocating the seagulls.
“And then they just kind of move back to where they’re supposed to be, like over on the sandbar, and eating fish like they’re designed to do,” Wolf said.
Falconers explained that the relocation process doesn’t hurt the seagulls.
“So we have to actually train them to chase the seagulls, but not to kill them which is actually really easy. It’s more like a game to them, so they’re not actually hurting them,” said Samantha Jackson, The Falconry Experience and Airstrike Bird Control falconer.
The falconers point a green laser at the seagulls. Then, a five-year-old hawk named Ranger patiently waits for instruction, then flies after the seagulls upon command.
“We will point the laser at the gull. The hawk will fly to where the laser is and then the gull, of course, will move,” Wolf said.
At night, the falconers return with the laser which is much easier to see in the dark.
“And we will run it over the roofs of all of the buildings here and that will drive all the seagulls back out into the areas that they’re supposed to be,” Wolf said.
The safety of Ranger the hawk is also kept in mind. He wears a tracker that allows the falconers to watch his every move and locate him if he gets lost.
In the first week, they say they’ve eliminated roughly 75% of the seagulls from the Embarcadero, though the falconers say they will continue relocating the seagulls 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 push-back from people who enjoyed feeding the seagulls and having them around, but that hasn’t been the case. She says people are delighted to see the falconers arrive and the seagulls fly away.
The falconers ask people to not feed the seagulls because processed food isn’t good for the birds and is what attracts them to the Embarcadero.