RSPCA takes 'drunk' gulls into rehab


RSPCA staff have been left scratching their heads after a string of call-outs to collect 'drunk' gulls. 

The animal welfare charity is concerned that the birds have been gaining access to waste products from a local brewery or alcohol producer, which, in turn, is making them ill.

RSPCA officers Jo Daniel, Clara Scully and Paul Adams have collected a number of birds exhibiting the same symptoms in recent weeks.

"We have had a number of these come through over the last couple of weeks," Inspector Daniel said. "We think they're gaining access to some brewing waste products somewhere. 

"At first, the birds look like they have botulism (an illness caused by bacteria) but then, after vomiting, most seem to recover. The birds absolutely stink of alcohol when we collect them, so now our vans smell like pubs!"

The calls started on 21 June and were still being received several days later, with the most recent regarding a bird in Lyme Regis on the evening of Sunday 1 July. RSPCA vet David Couper has treated a number of the birds as they arrived at the charity's West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Taunton, Somerset. 

"We've had birds coming in from across Devon (including Bridport, Dawlish, Seaton, Colyton, Exmouth, Exeter, Sidmouth, Starcross and Budleigh Salterton) and even a few from Bridport and Lyme Regis, in Dorset," he said. "Sadly, a few of the birds have died but most of them have made good recoveries and have been released after a few days in our care.

"I'd like to urge any local vets who see birds coming in with similar symptoms not to euthanise them but to give them a chance to recover from the effects of the alcohol. The birds appear disorientated and confused, and struggle to stand. We took some video of one of the birds is staggering around and losing [its] balance, just like a person would if they'd had too much to drink."

The animal welfare charity has had more than a dozen similar reports from the south coast and is now urging local breweries, distilleries and alcohol producers to check that their waste is secure and cannot be accessed by wildlife, particularly birds. Brewery waste can also be used as a compost and feed, so narrowing down where it's been coming from is difficult.

Anyone with concerns for the welfare of a bird or animal can contact the RSPCA's 24-hour helpline on 0300 1234 999 for advice or to request assistance.

A number of 'drunk' European Herring Gulls were found in Devon and Dorset, with the RSPCA carrying out rehabilitation to sober them up (Richard Austin).