LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) - Among the hundreds of Ring-Billed Gulls at the site of the old Lockport Mall, nets are cast over grass, fire hydrants, and other potential nesting sites, as are strobe lights, used to discourage the birds from sticking around.
Seagulls are a protected species, by federal law. So you can't kill them or move them, and there are strict rules against disturbing their nests.
The controversy came to light during demolition of the old mall as crews rousted the birds from their roost, killing some, injuring others, and sending nearly 60 young chicks scattering.
Eventually the gulls were removed and the mall was bulldozed. But each year, about nesting time, they come back.
Many in town would rather see the Walmart on this vacant lot, than a bird sanctuary.
Resident Valerie Scherrer said, "Something needs to be done. The canvas on the fencing has come down, the parking lot has not been maintained since they made the decision to close the mall."
A wildlife management firm has been hired to remove the birds.
Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz said, "And we will be visiting the site on a daily basis, over the next couple of months, to ensure that these measures are working, and to determine whether any birds are starting to nest."
Officials say the law allows them to move the gulls' nests, as long as no eggs are in the nests, and so far, they haven't found any eggs.
Officials from Walmart, the state DEC, and the government are getting together to figure out how they can remove the gulls.
They estimate it could be late spring before they can get back to work on building the new Walmart, and that's dependent on if they are successful scattering the seagulls.
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