EPA finds dogs are the best way to clear beaches of seagull guano

Sep 07, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
EPA finds dogs are the best way to clear beaches of seagull guano

(Phys.org)—A slew of researchers working for the US Environmental Protection Agency have found that the best way to clear public beaches of bird guano and the hazardous bacteria that result, is to unleash trained dogs to harass them into moving elsewhere. The team has written a paper describing their results and have had it published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

As anyone that's ever visited a public knows, seagulls are a familiar and generally unwelcome sight, as they congregate over areas and leave behind enormous amounts of their feces. What's worse is that many bacteria that are hazardous to human health tend to show up in the guano which makes its way into both the sand and nearby waters. Beaches that are frequented by a lot of people are tested periodically for such bacteria and if levels grow too high, the beach must be closed for a time. In most cases, beaches are "cleaned" by turning over the sand, a time consuming and costly business.

To fight the problem, the EPA has tried using oils to cover bird eggs which prevent them from hatching; a method that offers some short term benefit, but not much in the long run; it's also quite labor intensive. In looking for new ways to solve the problem, the researchers noted anecdotal evidence that has suggested that when are allowed on beaches, bird populations and the level of guano go down, though dog droppings of course, go up.

To find out if using dogs might be the solution if done in a proper way, the research team, led by Reagan Reed Converse, picked a beach in Racine Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan to serve as a study site. There they counted the number of birds present over an eleven day period and took sand and sea samples to measure the amount and kinds of bacteria as well. Next, they unleashed two border collies (with their handlers) that had been trained to chase seagulls on command, while leaving other less troublesome birds alone. The dogs kept the beach cleared of birds from morning till night for a week while the handlers kept the beach clear of dog doo.

The results showed the dogs truly did the trick. Prior to their arrival the researchers counted on average 665 birds on any given day; during the dog trial, that number fell to just 17. Also, prior to the introduction of the dogs, the researchers found hazardous present seven out of eleven days; when the dogs were working, they found none.

Because the results were so convincing, the EPA is now considering ways to implement beach patrols using trained dogs as a regular part of beach maintenance.

Explore further: PacifiCorp Energy pleads guilty in bird deaths (Update)

More information: Dramatic Improvements in Beach Water Quality Following Gull Removal, Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/es302306b

Abstract
Gulls are often cited as important contributors of fecal contamination to surface waters, and some recreational beaches have used gull control measures to improve microbial water quality. In this study, gulls were chased from a Lake Michigan beach using specially trained dogs, and water quality improvements were quantified. Fecal indicator bacteria and potentially pathogenic bacteria were measured before and during gull control using culture methods and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Harassment by dogs was an effective method of gull control: average daily gull populations fell from 665 before to 17 during intervention; and a significant reduction in the density of a gull-associated marker was observed (p < 0.001). Enterococcus spp. and Escherichia coli densities were also significantly reduced during gull control (p < 0.001 and p = 0.012, respectively for culture methods; p = 0.012 and p = 0.034, respectively for qPCR). Linear regression results indicate that a 50% reduction in gulls was associated with a 38% and 29% decrease in Enterococcus spp. and E. coli densities, respectively. Potentially human pathogenic bacteria were detected on 64% of days prior to gull control and absent during gull intervention, a significant reduction (p = 0.005). This study demonstrates that gull removal can be a highly successful beach remedial action to improve microbial water quality.

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Media Miller
2 / 5 (5) Sep 07, 2012
Nature has decided to place shorebirds like gulls exactly where they are found. Shorebirds feed on sand crabs and other live food in the tidal wash zone. Shorebirds cannot feed in the air, ocean,inland, on rocks or rocky shores for this bio-dynamic to be respected. Dogs are domestic animals fed ground up cows and bring their feces to the shore where they don't clean up their anywhere-at-all-but home feces and only man can bring them to solve what Mother Nature didn't break.
This is quite simply an unnatural act and an abomination of Nature. Birds belong where they alight, dogs should herd land animals and stay off the beaches where man feeds them Styrofoam in any event. Got Styrofoam -eating dogs? Now there is an idea!
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2012
Miller, you're saying that humans should not be a part of the equation, but here we are, changing how things work just by being here, removing predators that would otherwise contol the populations of certain species while doing nothing to mitigate that damage. This is an attempt at mitigation and equilibrium. Doing nothing would mean unusable beaches, and an out of control seagul population, which are about as far from being endangered as a species can get. Is this the best solution? Maybe not, but it's at least an attempt, and a potentially fairly low impact one as well.
Media Miller
1 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2012
As a Natural Scientist from the "Division of Natural Sciences", I find the Undivision of Natural Sciences essential to understanding the Environment before some seemingly brilliant one-dimensional data point. Styrofoam for instance is orders of magnitude worse than native species bio-degradeable waste. This is EPA control of Nature to play dog politics and get Government funding. I observed for four years how mostly AKC animal owners demand dominion in the face of Wildlife that never lies, but getting there using feces and T/P dollars is lower than whale waste. Humans are of course part of the equation, but you have no clue with changing one variable and go to EPA cash (winner,winner, chicken dinner)for funding and have dogs clear the beaches like a lunch counter in Birmingham in the early 1960s. Real smart;
Nature is out of control. Let's hit it with a hammer that for the time being accomplishes the look "we" desire.
kevin_flick_71
3 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2012
This might be a good idea for beaches adjacent to an airport (like El Segundo).
However I go to the beach to dip my toes in the water and watch the seagulls.
Do we really want to deny an entire habitat because it's too much of an effort to groom the sand? Grooming the sand is done anyway at busy beaches to get rid of the detritus our species leaves behind. The study and the article are ill-considered.
julianpenrod
2.4 / 5 (7) Sep 07, 2012
A number of crucial points are left out.
Among other things, if seagull guano was that much of a problem, it would have been addressed long ago. The policy of having troops of dogs patrolling beaches would stretch back to when beaches first became a major attraction. Since they weren't, that means seagull droppings never were a problem.
Which brings up the question of droppings being a "problem" now. Why is it? Is it? Remember, there are entire hordes of people out there who read a headline and become automatic, drone like slaves of the claims, whether they are true or laughably obviously false! A major point needs to be introduced that almost no one seems to have realized. Seagulls can leave feces on beaches, geese on public parks, dogs on city streets. But the rain used to be enough to wash it all away! All the movements to attack animal feces are part of a deliberate ploy to avoid admitting the entire planet's climate is changing for the worse!
zaq
1 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2012
mankind is part of nature not apart from it
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2012
Julian, in regard to why it's a problem now, there are a couple of possibilities. One is that the seagull population has risen to the point where there is significantly more of their waste than there was before. This would mean it is more a problem of volume. Another possibility is that it wasn't seen as a problem until recently. Perhaps a particular ailment was finally traced back to this as the cause.

Questioning whether this is even a problem is fine, but this article is about how to correct the problem, meaning it was established as a problem well before this idea (the 'oil' experiment would have had to be tested for at least one season).

Kevin, grooming beaches can get rid of large waste such as cups and bags, but all it would do in this case is mix the guano into the sand.
barakn
3.3 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2012
Seagull populations have boomed in certain areas due to feeding off of fish offal from the fishing industry or from garbage dumps. And any seagull that frequents a garbage dump is a disgusting creature.
Dug
2.8 / 5 (5) Sep 07, 2012
Actually sea gull populations exploded due to open dumps whose refuse represents far more opportunity feed mass than fishery offal - including landfills before they are covered. Visit one anywhere in the country - even in the middle far from the sea and you'll find sea gulls. Essentially sea gulls are natures air borne rats and like rats they have their useful niche, but man's sloppy habits have expanded their niche (like rats)into mans.

I think using dogs to get rid of sea gulls on a beach is an absurd idea - because you swap sea gull guano for dog shit - a considerably larger, more noticeable, and odious bare foot and beach blanket hazard.

Besides on our beaches here on FL's Treasure Coast it's those damn genius crows that are pulling the sandwiches out of peoples bags, baskets and coolers. Some can read, too - because I saw one try to fly off with a Bud Light the other day. I think they might have better toilet habits as well.
Job001
3 / 5 (4) Sep 08, 2012
Live dogs(preferable to robot dogs) can be trained to dump where desired(portable grass box for instance) rather than on the beach. Politicized attitudes are silly, IMHO. Good study that will make it safer for kids to go to the beach, a good thing!
alfie_null
1 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2012
What is being turned into guano? Are there more seagulls now? Is it because there is more food? If seagulls were removed from the cycle, what would happen to that food source?

Does the EPA expect this proposed action will affect the seagull population, or just get it to relocate? Is it OK for seagulls to defecate as long as it's not on a public beach?

Who would pay for maintaining these patrol dogs?
baudrunner
1.3 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2012
Bird guano is rich in nitrogen and other things that make plants grow. Other countries like Peru are harvesting sea bird guana, higher in nitrogen and phospherous than bat or seal droppings, for fertilizer use. So, instead of complaining about the cost of cleaning it up, why not capitalize on it?
geokstr
1 / 5 (7) Sep 08, 2012
How about we get some scientists to figure out how to replace the styrofoam we use to make cups and sandwich containers with cups and containers made out of biodegradeable guano? There you go, problem solved.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (15) Sep 08, 2012
What is being turned into guano?
Pretty much anything. Seagulls are scavengers and vermin like pigeons.
Are there more seagulls now? Is it because there is more food?
Yes and you didn't read the comments. More garbage, more offal, more gulls.
If seagulls were removed from the cycle, what would happen to that food source?
Well it would stay where it was deposited wouldn't it?
Does the EPA expect this proposed action will affect the seagull population, or just get it to relocate?
Just relocate would be my guess? I noticed in central NJ there were patrols which drove around and chased geese off corporate lawns with exploding munitions if some sort.
Is it OK for seagulls to defecate as long as it's not on a public beach?
Uh yes?
Who would pay for maintaining these patrol dogs?
The same people who are paying to turn the sand and clean up gull poop. That is, us.

Your questions are very easy to answer but I suspect they were only rhetorical.
Media Miller
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2012
I thought this study was a clever ruse to expose EPA as a corporate tool using one-dimensional solutions with impossible economics to foster their agenda as a Self-Perpetuating Organization(SPO).
sirchick
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 08, 2012
mankind is part of nature not apart from it


Man kind also has the ability to fix some of the problems. Not all of course.

Many seagulls have moved inland anyway - they will survive inland whilst we enjoy beaches - everyone wins.

Most seagulls are not "SEA"gulls any more.. more like "town gulls".
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (9) Sep 09, 2012
Many seagulls have moved inland anyway - they will survive inland whilst we enjoy beaches - everyone wins.
But per the article that's not how it works is it? Gull populations have expanded to fill new niches. Garbage dumps, supermarket parking lots, light poles, great lakes. This is how speciation operates.
Media Miller
1 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2012
"EPA finds dogs are the best way to clear beaches of seagull guano"
If the EPA wastes taxpayer money like this with non- sustainable species-domination schemes, it proves they are as bankrupt as most of Nixon's scientists, like John Mitchell and Donald Rumsfeld, a cabal of corporate lawyers that knew controlling real scientists by controlling their funding was the surest way to corporate truth and the American citizens united Way.
Our avian species are a gift from God, Styrofoam is man's gift to them. Don't shoot the messengers of Nature. They warn us humans when we have violated our Mother.
kevin_flick_71
not rated yet Sep 09, 2012
Trinity:
"Kevin, grooming beaches can get rid of large waste such as cups and bags, but all it would do in this case is mix the guano into the sand."

However the article says:
"In most cases, beaches are "cleaned" by turning over the sand, a time consuming and costly business."

But if they get rid of the birds and the guano with dogs, they will still have to groom/turn-over the sand to get rid of human trash, (as we do with street cleaning) so there won't be any savings at all. They still need to buy the equipment and so on.

There is something really strange about the motivations for this study, the study itself, and its conclusions.

sirchick
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2012
Many seagulls have moved inland anyway - they will survive inland whilst we enjoy beaches - everyone wins.
But per the article that's not how it works is it? Gull populations have expanded to fill new niches. Garbage dumps, supermarket parking lots, light poles, great lakes. This is how speciation operates.


True but it won't hurt if we can clear the beaches for us to enjoy - the seagulls will live on in our backyards :P
antonima
not rated yet Sep 09, 2012
Wow, that sounds like a dog's dream. Heck, give me a slingshot and I'll do it too, for minimal wage!
Jonseer
1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2012
I think using dogs to get rid of sea gulls on a beach is an absurd idea - because you swap sea gull guano for dog shit - a considerably larger, more noticeable, and odious bare foot and beach blanket hazard.


Nothing says stupid like commenting on an article you obviously did NOT read.

The study included people who CLEANED UP AFTER THE DOGS.

The cost of paying them to do this was included obviously, in the overall measurements as to whether it was a cost effective way to deal with bird guano over the current methods of turning over the sand and closing the entire beach while time did its stuff.

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