By MADDY VITALE
Get ready to lose again, seagulls.
The company East Coast Falcons and its gull-chasing raptors are coming back to Ocean City in just a few months to continue their winning streak of ridding the Boardwalk, beaches, and downtown of the pesky, food-snatching birds.
On Thursday, Ocean City Council plans to award a contract for 2023-25 to East Coast Falcons, a New Jersey-based, bird-abatement company owned by Erik Swanson. The contract is for $316,920. East Coast Falcons was the sole bidder for the contract, which it has had since 2019.
Swanson said in an interview Wednesday night that while the contract is not officially awarded as of yet, he and his team are hopeful and happy to return for another great summer.
“We love Ocean City,” he said. “This is going to be an exciting summer.”
The contract will run from April to October.
Daniel Kelchner, director of Community Services, said in a memo about awarding the contract to East Coast Falcons (ECF), “ECF has worked to greatly reduce disruptions by nuisance birds on our boardwalk, beaches, as well as certain interior areas where the gull presence has become a growing concern for our business community.”
Kelchner continued, “ECF also does an outstanding with the city to create public awareness of the program and to promote the educational aspects about falconry-based bird abatement that are fascinating to so many residents and visitors.”
Swanson said that over the years, city officials have been very progressive in working with East Coast Falcons on the bird-abatement program to create the best way to rid the island of the nuisance birds.
Among some of the highlights of this year’s plan will be more concentrated coverage in the downtown and eateries throughout the island, in addition to the Boardwalk and beach coverage.
Specifically, the downtown Asbury Avenue corridor will get a lot of coverage as well as other restaurants in town.
“We have hired a few more falconers to cover the expanded areas,” Swanson noted.
In addition to Swanson, there will be full-time and part-time handlers of the birds.
Swanson said there will also be a few new birds of prey. In total, there will be two Harris’s hawks, eight falcons, eight backup falcons, and Ozzy the owl.
Since being contracted by Ocean City in 2019, East Coast Falcons, based in Lodi, N.J., primarily focused on the Boardwalk and the beachfront, but over the last few years has been expanding the coverage area.
During the summer of 2020, another company, Wildlife Control Specialists LLC, of Lebanon, N.J., submitted the lowest bid for the seagull-abatement program and was awarded the contract.
The city, though, wasn’t pleased with Wildlife Control Specialists’ performance and decided to switch back to East Coast Falcons, the second-lowest bidder, beginning in July of 2020.
There was a time, prior to 2019, when the rooftops of businesses on the Boardwalk sometimes appeared a bit like Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
In 2019, Mayor Jay Gillian and the city administration hired East Coast Falcons after receiving numerous complaints about aggressive gulls menacing people for their food.
The final straw for Gillian was when he saw a dive-bombing gull “smack” a small child in the face. He has repeatedly characterized it as a public safety issue.
The raptors, according to city officials, have been overwhelmingly successful in chasing the gulls back into their natural habitat, the bays, marshlands, and ocean.
For more information about East Coast Falcons visit: https://www.eastcoastfalcons.com/