Chicago hopes to kill gulls before birth
CHICAGO, Ill., April 24 (UPI) -- Chicago is trying a form of avian abortion in its war against ring-billed gulls -- coating eggs with corn oil to keep them from hatching.
A pilot project involves only a few nests and is aimed at determining whether adult gulls behave differently when they do not have young to feed, The Chicago Tribune reported.
The gulls, aggressive feeders, hang out on the city's famed lakefront and foul the waters of Lake Michigan with their droppings. Some experts believe the birds are responsible for high levels of E. coli bacteria that have caused swimming to be banned at beaches.
The city has already covered trash cans on the lakefront and changed the roofs of some buildings to make them less hospitable to birds. Border collies have been used in an effort to drive the gulls away.
The corn oil has been determined not to harm gulls, people or the environment, but it cuts off air circulation through egg shells, killing the embryos. Experts warn that it is not a quick fix.
"People should not expect that one year of limiting hatchling numbers will immediately reduce conflicts with gulls," said Scott Beckerman, director of Illinois Wildlife Services. "Gulls live a long time, generally returning to the area where they hatched once they are old enough to breed."