Hawk to patrol city centre to keep seagulls at bay for Sunderland Food and Drink Festival

Aristotle, an eight-year-old Harris hawk, will be on hand to keep seagulls at bay ahead of Sunderland Food and Drink Festival.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 2:56 pm

The festival is set to start on Friday and end on Sunday and will showcase goods from local, regional and international traders – but seagulls could cause problems.

As Sunderland is by the sea, the city council doesn't want to take any chances.

Plans have been made for the hawk to patrol the city centre before and during the festival as part of a trial which may continue.

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A Harris hawk has been brought in to keep seagulls away from the Sunderland Food and Drink Festival. Falconer Matt Hepburn with Executive Director of Neighbourhoods Fiona Brown.

Aristotle, along with other hawks, tried his claw at gull-deterring in the past at Mowbray Park in 2015 – and celebrated success.

Fiona Brown, executive director of neighbourhoods at the city council, liased with South Tyneside Council on ways to stop the seagulls from spoiling visitors experiences.

She said: “It’s something that were trying out, but we also think it’s very important to get people into the city centre.

“We have a fantastic food festival and we want to make sure that as many people can get down as possible and enjoy the experience. It is just one approach that we will be taking.”

Bird handler Matt Hepburn with his Harris hawk Aristotle.

Stuart Laidler, the bird of prey handler, said Aristotle was there to act as a deterrent, not attack or chase the gulls.

He added: “Gulls are actually a protected species, so this is a completely humane method of dispersing them and stopping them from attacking people and taking food from people’s hands.

“We are here on the build-up to get the message across to the gulls and to stop them from attacking the public as they often do.”

Along with falconer Matt Hepburn, Stuart believes that if Aristotle does a good job at solving the gull problem he could return in the future.

The food and drink festival is expected to attract thousands of people into Sunderland’s centre to enjoy the goods and live cookery demonstrations from celebrity chefs, music and street entertainment.

Hopefully, with Aristotle’s help, the seagulls should stay back.