Q&A - seagull maintenance

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Q: What can you do about sea-gulls making a mess all over your boat or dock?

Q: What can you do about sea-gulls making a mess all over your boat or dock?

A: I wish I could tell you what I really think, but I’ll have to say nice things here. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do about gulls. Unfortunately, they don’t all work forever. I don’t know whether seagulls are smart enough to figure out that our tactics aren’t really a threat, or that they’re just stupid enough to forget about them. (I have my opinion.) The good news is that when one thing stops working you can try something else.

We’re not alone in this fight, and it’s a comfort to know that others in the trenches have come up with various solutions. Some report that stringing up old CDs helps. Light flashing off them, and the eye-like hole in the middle seem to make a frightening impression. Many report that stringing monofilament fishing line around the boat is both effective, and easy to set up and take down. Of course, you’ll need to do this in a way that won’t result in your tripping over it, and you’ll need to remember it’s there. Still others report success with such tactics as stringing bare copper wires, surveyors’ tape, fishing line and netting.

If you want to spend money on gadgets, commercial ingenuity also has leapt into the fray. We’ve tried the Scare Eye balloons (around $11 at West Marine, www.westmarine.com, and other retailers) and found that they help for a while, depending on the tolerance level of your gulls and how much the wind moves them around. We’ve also used inflatable snakes (around $11 at West and other stores) with some success. You have to tie them down when it gets really windy and take them up when your daughter’s beagle comes aboard.

RAD Engineering Ltd. of Kaneohe, Hawaii, makes the Jumpo, which comprises two rounded UV-resistant plastic “wings” that are activated by a bungee cord. When moved or stepped on by a bird, the Jumpo jumps into the air and frightens the bird without injury, according to the manufacturer. A package of six sells for $34, and can be ordered online at www.birddeterrent.com or by calling (808) 254-3095.

With the Gullsweep system, you mount one or more rotating rods on swivel mounts on top of your boat’s superstructure, Bimini or foredeck. Wind or boat motion causes it to rotate. The manufacturer says the Gullsweep makes gulls uncomfortable by creating an unknown fear of the moving object, which represents potential danger, so that the gull will go to another roosting site (hopefully not on my boat). It sells for $36. www.gullsweep.com, (201) 670-0104.

The Seagull Stopper by Lake Enterprises of Indian River, Mich., is a system that protects canopies by stringing a web of braided nylon line on staffs fastened to the top. Prices are listed at $139 to $199. www.seagullstopper.com, (866) 283 5413.

Many swear by plastic owls. I’ve seen a few owls with droppings on their heads, which makes me wonder whether they attract other owls. You can even get one made by Dalen Products of Knoxville, Tenn., that has a swiveling head that turns and bobs with the wind to assure any doubting bird of its malicious intent. It sells for around $25. www.gardeneer.com, (865) 966-3256.

There are also various sound-producing bird deterring devices. The problem is to avoid bothering your neighbors and fellow boaters, and to not hurt the ears of dogs or other non-offending creatures. British firm Martley Electronics Ltd. offers both audible and inaudible ultrasonic “bird scarers” from $140 to around $300. www.martleyelectronics.co.uk

Bird-B-Gone of Mission Viejo, Calif., offers a variety of bird deterrents, including the Bird Chase Super Sonic, which scares birds by producing the distress and predator calls of more than 22 bird species. The waterproof unit is UV resistant and has one internal speaker, according to the company, and you can add up to four additional speakers. It requires a 110-volt power supply. (No, I haven’t seen them at Circuit City.) It sells for $225. www.birdbgone.com, (800) 392-6915.