‘Stuka dive-bomber’ gulls killing mature sheep inland

Giant seagulls have begun attacking and killing mature sheep inland in South and West Kerry, it has emerged.

Also, in one dramatic attack, a seagull swooped on a motorcyclist on the road between Waterville and Cahersiveen. The man compared it to a Second World War Stuka dive-bomb attack, so expertly was it executed, with the gull protecting his wings.

News of the attacks comes just days after Fianna Fáil’s Senator Denis O’Donovan demanded a cull of the “vicious” seabirds, saying it was coming to the stage where they are endangering society.

Part-time mountain sheep farmer and rural development officer John McCrohan witnessed the deaths of two mature ewes in an attack by a number of gulls on his farm between Camp and Annascaul.

Mr McCrohan, brandishing a stick, barely fought off the gulls, as both ewes died.

He said both animals were mature, not yet shorn, yet the gulls managed to savage them through their thick coat of wool. The gulls used not just their beaks, but also their claws. Even when he intervened, the gulls waited a short distance away.

“I am convinced, if I didn’t have that stick, they might have attacked me,” the farmer said on Radio Kerry.

He has called for a cull on the gulls, which are encroaching further and further inland from the coast. They are commonplace in mountainous areas now; only in storm conditions would they have been seen inland previously.

Bridget O’Connor, a sheep farmer near Camp outside Tralee, suffered the same experience last year. Generations of farmers had farmed the land, but had never seen gulls. Last March, two lambs were attacked and Ms O’Connor, who witnessed the episode at around 6am, said the lambs were left in an awful state, with their entrails torn out by the gulls. She said they had been “gored to death”.

In Iveragh, motorcyclist Vincent Appleby was travelling at about 40km an hour when a large gull nearly knocked him off his bike.

“He nearly knocked my head off. It was like a Second World War Stuka coming in. He knew what he was doing, he turned at the last minute, so his wings wouldn’t hit,” he said.

Mr Appleby works as a ghillie and guide. He said at one time he had been befriended by a large gull as he fished on Waterville Lake. He said gulls were very clever.

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