LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) - A protected bird grounded the demolition of the long-vacant Lockport Mall in Niagara County.
When the old mall finally came down on Wednesday there was an unexpected surprise. Hundreds of seagulls had apparently been nesting on the roof.
56 baby gulls were rescued from the site of the old Lockport Mall on Wednesday and Thursday morning. When a demolition crew brought down most of the building Wednesday, they apparently hadn't realized that possibly hundreds of babies had been nesting there.
Sandy Pfohl of Lakeview Animal Sanctuary said, "They didn't know they were up on the roof, about a month ago, there were no nests up there, they didn't know, and unless you're up to date on the federal laws, you wouldn't know it's a protected bird."
These ring-billed gulls are not rare, but they are federally protected. Many of them were killed during demolition, but once some started running from the debris, the construction crews stopped and helped rehabilitators gather them up.
"They were running around out there with nets and that's a wonderful story to tell their children that they were rescuing birds at a construction site," said Pfohl.
On Thursday, there were still some gulls near the site.
Dick Beyer said, "Yeah, not like yesterday. Thousands of them, yeah, the sky was all white with them."
Donna Boskat of Lakeview Animal Sanctuary said, "They were swarming around here yesterday because they were trying to protect the little ones and they would scurry them underneath the debris."
Lockport residents who came to see the demolition are looking forward to a new Walmart at the site, and didn't seem too concerned for the gulls.
Helga Carlson said, "Life goes on. That's all I can say."
But volunteer rehabilitators like Bob Humbert see them as more than just french fry scavengers.
Humbert of AWARE Wildlife said, "Everything has a purpose. They have a bad name, they get a bad rap but they're here for a reason. They clean up stuff that people leave."
So for the rest of the month, he'll be a mommy to some of them.
"Another three or four weeks probably before they can fly and eat on their own," said Humbert.
By some accounts, there were hundreds of babies nesting on that roof. If you'd like to help, follow this link.
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