It’s that time of year again, when residents and tourists alike enjoy eating and drinking outdoors when the summer weather is good. Suddenly, however, their food can literally be snatched out of their hands or off their plates by hungry and aggressive seagulls.
Norwegians call it måketerror (gull terror), and it’s long prompted kiosks and outdoor cafés in popular areas of Oslo and other cities to warn customers and even post printed warnings. Gull terror incidents have risen this year, according to complaints registered by merchants with city officials.
“We’ve had complaints over the gulls’ noise and complaints that some folks are scared by them,” Tea Turturnøygard of the city agency in charge of public areas (Oslo Bymiljøetaten) told state broadcaster NRK.
Incidents began earlier this spring, when a short period of warm weather lured people outdoors. Many in Oslo’s Aker Brygge area were quickly plagued by gulls snatching sausages and even ice cream cones out of their hands. “Warning! Seagulls can steal hot-dogs!” reads a warning posted once again at a Narvesen kiosk at Aker Brygge, written in both Norwegian and English and accompanied by a cartoon. A relatively new outdoor eating area at nearby Vika Terrasse has also had problems with large, aggressive gulls swooping down on tables to snatch pastries and cake.
Experts blame the nesting and hatching season, which runs from March and through the summer, just when more people are eating outdoors. Gulls are highly protective of their chicks, and now, in July, many young gulls are leaving the nest, escorted by their parents.
“Most gulls now have chicks out walking around and then the parents’ aggressive behaviour reaches new heights,” Turturnøygard told NRK. Both parents and their young are hungry as well.
She also noted that more gulls are nesting closer to cities and other populated areas, so it can seem like there are more of them. Turturnøygard said the seagull population in Norway has actually declined in recent years, however, and gulls are protected by law during the nesting season. It’s illegal to shoot or otherwise kill gulls without special permission from wildlife authorities, but property owners are allowed to mount devices aimed at keeping gulls off rooftops.