The gulls are persistent pests at nearly every landfill. They cause issues for drivers and nearby neighbors alike. But at Seneca Meadows Landfill, an outside contractor is getting rid of them in a unique and natural way.

Local landfills are using falcons to get rid of trash-eating seagulls.

The gobbling gulls are persistent pests at nearly every landfill. They cause issues for drivers and nearby neighbors alike. But at Seneca Meadows Landfill, an outside contractor is getting rid of them.

The droves of seagulls can create low visibility for workers and their droppings breakdown into ammonia, which is a health hazard and overall nuisance as it covers machinery. They also drop trash onto cars and properties bordering the landfill.

“The seagulls take the trash, fly away with it. They’ll realize they can’t eat what they have and just drop it. We don’t want cars on 414 having chicken bones dropped on them, pieces of rubber,” explained Steve Ardt with American Falconry Services.

His program fights against the bothersome birds by bringing in trained falcons. They go through food associated activities, using a lure the NYS licensed falconers spin in the air.

As the falcon dives and swoops for the lure, it scares away the seagulls.

“When the seagulls see that they think something has been caught or is being actively chased. All they care about is getting to a safe location,” explained Ardt. That location is usually a nearby pond.

“They’ll run into the water because [falcons] can’t swim.”

So Ardt and his partner Chris Tocco team up. One stays with the falcon as it flies, the other heads to the ponds to scare off the gulls.

“We have two sets of pyrotechnics. We’ll shoot those off which pushes the seagulls further away. We just repeatedly tell them you can’t get your food here,” said Ardt.

He explained some landfills opt to file for permits to shoot at the seagulls, his program offers an eco-friendly alternative.

When the falcons aren’t working, they are housed in a pen behind the landfill’s office building. They are fed every single day but are also weighed to make sure they’ll continue working for the falconers.

“They don’t eat the gulls. They get a certain amount of food a day. So, they’re weighed and have to stay within a weight-range. We find that sweet spot. Not too heavy so they come back for the food. Not too light so they don’t go off to hunt on their own,” said Ardt.

And it’s working. At one point there were 50,000 seagulls covering the landfill. Now that number is below 1,000.

American Falconry Services also runs a program at High Acres Landfill in Perinton and at a shipping yard in Pennsylvania.