Raptors send seagulls fleeing from Ocean City

OCEAN CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Ozzy the Eurasian Eagle Owl doesn't even have to flap his wings to send hordes of seagulls into a panic.

Perched on his handler's arm, the seven-year-old bird and his cohort of raptors are the heroes of the summer in Ocean City, New Jersey.

"Absolutely wonderful. They are keeping the seagulls away," said Dorothy Mascione of Glenside, Pennsylvania.

Ozzy is part of a pilot program paid for by Ocean City to deter increasingly aggressive seagulls who have been stealing vacationers' food and testing their patience for years.

Officials at a city meeting on Thursday called the program an early success.

Steve Mascione has seen the effect raptors are having for himself.

"The seagulls see the bird and do a u-turn right away," said Steve Mascione.

"Ozzy's presence strikes fear in them. It's a primal fear," said handler PJ Simonis.

As Simonis walked along the boardwalk with Ozzy on his arm, there wasn't a seagull in sight. Almost miraculously, the once ever-present junk food fiends had vanished.
Simonis said the gulls learned quickly.

"The seagulls have learned what truck I use to bring the raptors here," Simonis said.

Before Simonis gets out of his truck, he can hear the seagulls "screaming warning calls to other seagulls."

The city is paying East Coast Falcons $2,100 a day for the service.

The Masciones believe it's worth every penny.

"It makes you want to come here and enjoy. You can enjoy it more because you don't have to worry about the birds," said Dorothy Mascione.

East Coast Falcons has been hired to patrol the boardwalk through Labor Day weekend.
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