If you work downtown and park outside, you’ve probably spent the past month wiping seagull poop off your car. It’s not just you. The National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count reports a sharp and dramatic rise in the gull population over the past three years. It’s led to thousands of gulls flying over downtown and floating on the Cuyahoga in flocks the size of a city block.

The 2007 year-end count from Lakewood reported 8,779 ring-billed gulls. In 2008, it reported 12,646. As 2009 closed, the number had more than doubled, to just over 28,000.

Ohio Division of Wildlife District Wildlife Management Supervisor Dan Kramer says the gull population has steadily risen as Lake Erie has gotten cleaner. And as the lake ices over, gulls feed inland, where warm discharge water keeps the river from freezing and pedestrians drop snacks. Kramer says the Cleveland area of Lake Erie is home to “hundreds of thousands of birds.” As the waters thaw, they’ll head back closer to Canada, farther from your car. But for now, get used to them.

“As the shoreline opens up, they’ll tend to scatter somewhat,” says Kramer. “But it won’t happen overnight.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors (and sometimes culls) bird populations around Hopkins Airport, where they might interfere with air traffic. But if you park in the Flats, you’re on your own.
Shooting gulls is definitely dangerous and probably illegal — and killing sea birds has, historically, been linked to bad luck. No one’s suggesting you should resume dumping your used oil in the lake. But next time you’re at an Indians game, maybe drink a little less so you can finish your hot dog. — D.X. Ferris

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.
Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.