Gull problems persist on Mountain Lake
By Chad Ingram
Published Sept. 6, 2018
“Embarrassed” was a term used by some members of Minden Hills council as they heard presentations from residents of Mountain Lake during an Aug. 30 meeting.
For years, the lake has been plagued by a seagull population who feed at the township’s nearby Scotch Line landfill, and then retreat to the lake, where they litter the water, decks, docks and boats.
“I’m not talking about 10, 20, 50 or 100 seagulls,” resident Kym Hanson told councillors, adding that a few a days before the council meeting, a count had found nearly 700 gulls in one of the lake’s bays.
Hanson said the birds soil her family’s dock and swimming area with feces, feathers and garbage from the landfill. She is a mother to two young daughters and said her family must clean out the water near their cottage before the girls can go swimming.
A detailed presentation she’d prepared showed images of large flocks of seagulls on the lake, as well as their covering docks and boats.
“Before I even get out of bed, I start to feel anxious – are there going to be seagulls sitting there?” she said, adding she was sure that if she were to start dumping trash into the water, there would be ramifications for it. “It seems to be OK that the seagulls can take it from the dump and release it into the lake.”
“I’m here to plead for your help,” Hanson told councillors, asking that the township clean up the Scotch Line landfill, as residents believe the dump’s condition is responsible for the large seagull population that has made the south end of Mountain Lake home.
“I’ve been asking for help since 2014, and nothing has been done,” Hanson said.
Past staff reports from the township’s environmental and property operations manager Ivan Ingram have included a number of suggestions for dealing with the gulls at the dump, including the use of sound cannons and falconry to scare off the birds. It was hoped that remediation work that was performed at the landfill last year would help mitigate the gull problem.
Permits to shoot seagulls can also be obtained through the federal government and Hanson told councillors she is at the point where she has applied for and received such a licence.
“I have a permit to shoot to kill, I have a permit to shoot to scare,” she said, adding that the process was easy and quick.
Hanson’s presentation included health risks associated the seagull feces, including the presence of E. coli, and phosphorous and nitrogen loading, which can cause oxygen depletion in lakes.
“If I knew there was a seagull problem on this lake before I bought here, I would never have bought here,” she told councillors.
“This isn’t a very proud day for me, but the buck stops here,” said Mayor Brent Devolin, requesting that a staff report come back to council in two weeks’ time and saying the township would take aggressive action on the issue.
“I’m so upset and embarrassed about how this situation has escalated,” said Councillor Jean Neville. “At this point, we’ve got to cull the birds, and I totally support that.”
“Your emails, your calls have not gone unnoticed,” Councillor Pam Sayne told Hanson. “Our staff have spent a lot of time on this, and research, and costing as well.”
Mountain Lake resident George Steeves, who’s made presentations to council in the past regarding the seagull problem, also spoke during last week’s meeting.
“The message from council four years, and two years, was very similar to the message today,” Steeves said. He said that a one-off solution was not sufficient to deal with the gulls, but rather that it would require a combination of actions performed on an ongoing basis.
“You wake up with gulls, you go to sleep with gulls,” Steeves said, stressing there are numerous courses of action available for council to take. “No one’s asking you to invent anything. All the solutions are available.”
Steeves said his family doesn’t even go swimming at their property anymore, but rather head over to the public beach on 12 Mile Lake if they feel like going for a swim.
“We just don’t go to the water,” he said. “It’s a quality of life issue.”