Atlantic City drops plan to deter seagulls

January 29, 2008 5:31:24 AM PST

Animal rights groups decried it and engineers said it might be risky, but business leaders in this gambling resort ultimately decided that the idea just wouldn't work.

"We came to the conclusion that it would be a very, very difficult project to do on the Boardwalk," said Don Guardian, executive director of the Atlantic City Special Improvement District, which floated the idea last month.

Boardwalk business groups now plan to address the problem by installing dome-shaped covers over garbage cans, erecting "Don't Feed The Seagulls" signs and asking the city to enforce an ordinance already on its books that calls for $50 fines for people who feed seagulls.

"We are very pleased and heartened to hear that humane options were considered," said Stephanie Bell, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "We were concerned that the birds would have been injured, that their wings would have been broken."

The original plan was to string strands of fishing wire above the Boardwalk in several spots to deter the birds from swooping down and annoying people eating below.

But the idea proved problematic. Attaching the wires to light poles would have created a web that could have been stressed by wind.

Also, if the wires had been strung high enough to let people walk underneath, birds could have flown in as well.

The problem has been around perhaps as long as the Boardwalk, which was built in 1870. Seagulls and pigeons routinely walk or flutter right inside one pizza restaurant to try to snatch food.

But people are part of the problem, too. They often feed crumbs, pieces of bread, pizza crusts or other food to gulls along the Boardwalk.

Another idea - using replicas of predatory birds such as owls or hawks to scare the gulls away - has already failed.

"The Sands used to have a long walkway between the casino and the Boardwalk, and they put fiberglass owls on it to keep the seagulls away," Guardian said. "The seagulls just sat on top of the owls. They're not as dumb as we think."