“We’ve been working on three different — but closely related — projects all related to gulls on public beaches,” CMU researcher Elizabeth Alm said. “We’re trying to get a better understanding of gulls.”
One project involved monitoring gull movement and land use in Ottawa and adjacent counties. Alm said gulls were captured and fitted with radio transmitters at several North Shore beaches, which allowed gull movements to be monitored.
Research shows gulls select wastewater treatment systems, landfills and beaches as sites to frequent. Gull movement between these sites was monitored via the radio transmitters.
“Gulls have been increasing in number in the Great Lakes basin,” Alm said. “Not only can they be kind of annoying, but as they leave their droppings, (they) are adding bacteria.”
Alm noted that some of these bacterium are the same that appear in water quality tests that could indicate human waste contaminants. This could cause confusion for beach quality testers, she said.
Another issue, Alm said, is that the birds have the potential to spread disease and illness.
“The gulls are a potential health risk to humans,” she said. “We had … studies to see if gulls could pick up human contaminants and transport them, (and) we were able to determine the markers of human sewage in their intestines.”
Researchers also studied the effectiveness of using dogs to control gulls.
“The emphasis of that project was to see if border collies could reduce the gull population,” Alm said. “Our study showed that border collies were very effective. And, if we can reduce the gull numbers, the amount of bacteria in the sand is decreased.”
To read the whole story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.