EAST Sussex Wildlife Rescue has condemned a decision to kill an entire family of gulls after one attacked a Seaford pensioner.
A sharpshooter was called in to kill the nesting pair of gulls and their chicks on Wednesday.
Grace Amos, 86, of Pevensey Close, needed stitches after a gull swooped down and sank its beak into her head as she left her home to collect her pension.
Stunned and bleeding she stumbled to the home of a neighbour who called for help.
She suffered no life threatening injury but was so terrified she refused to return to her home.
As a result the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, police and Lewes District Council recommended culling the gulls as they had become a danger to public health.
But Trevor Weeks, county rescue co-ordinator for East Sussex Wildlife Ambulance Service, was horrified that the birds had been killed.
He had offered to safely remove the gulls chicks from the roof to halt the attacks.
He said: I am amazed and gobsmacked that our advice has been been totally ignored.
If a licence from English Nature had been obtained someone could have got up on the roof and removed the chicks, preventing the gulls from dive-bombing. They were just trying to protect the chicks.
He added: We have had many calls from people who were upset that the birds were to be killed. There was a humane way to remove them and they chose the inhumane way.
To say the least, we are absolutely horrified.
A spokesman for Lewes District Council said after lengthy discussions with animal welfare organisations it was decided to hire a contractor and kill the birds.
A statement issued by the council said: The district council does not provide a service for the control of seagulls. The action taken in Seaford to cull nesting seagulls was wholly exceptional.
Lewes District Council regrets having to employ lethal measures as a last resort in this case. We are keen to work with bird protection groups on issues that may arise in the future.
We must strongly emphasise that seagulls are protected by law and can only be killed humanely, and in very exceptional circumstances, by authorised council personnel under licence.
The family of Mrs Amos were invited to comment but declined.
Published: 5.7.01 Sussex Newspapers Ltd