While they may have a bad reputation as pasty stealing nuisances, Devon and Cornwall Police wildlife crimes group are cracking down on the persecution of herring gulls.

Herring Gulls have traditionally been given a bad name due in part to their habit of stealing pasties and ice creams from un-suspecting members of the public in our seaside towns.

However, Herring Gulls are a protected species which includes the birds, their nests, eggs and chicks.

It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird or intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built and intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.

Police say any criminal activity in this regard will "not be tolerated".

Wildlife Crimes Officer, PC Paul Freestone said: “Herring Gull persecution accounts for nearly 90 per cent of all reported bird persecution across the force area. Incidents range from nest and eggs being destroyed to juvenile and adult birds being shot or even clubbed to death.

‘We are still early in the nesting season, but people need to be aware of the law. As soon as a gull lays down just a few bits of material to start a nest, that nest is protected.

‘We would encourage anyone witnessing offences against birds to report them immediately to the police’.

For further information or advice please phone 101 and ask to speak to a Wildlife Crimes officer.