Fighting Seagulls In Ocean City, N.J.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
They're predators who circle the sky, eye their prey, then dive, dive, knocking the pizza out of your hand. Not B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music, but seagulls, specifically the tough goals on the boardwalk of Ocean City, N.J. And authorities there have called in the big birds. Randy Levchuk owns Jilly's, a family run business that manages many store fronts on the boardwalk, including an ice cream stand and an arcade. He joins us from the boardwalk. Mr. Levchuk, thanks very much for being with us.
RANDY LEVCHUK: No problem. Thanks for having me.
SIMON: So how obnoxious are these seagulls?
LEVCHUK: Well, before the city decided to do anything, it was really bad. It was nonstop. You would see it constantly where the seagulls were going after any food that was in somebody's hand, whether it's pizza, pretzel, french fry, that type of thing that they could easily grab. But this year, it got to the point where they were even going after people that had ice cream in their hands.
SIMON: Wow. You know, I'm sorry. I know if you go after a slice of pizza in the hands of someone from New Jersey, you're asking for trouble aren't you?
LEVCHUK: (Laughing) Yeah, especially down here.
SIMON: I understand your own family had an unfortunate confrontation involving a child, ice cream and a seagull.
LEVCHUK: Yeah. Well it wasn't ice cream, but my son last year got attacked by them. They came after him when he had a french fry in his hand. And at the time he was 3 years old. Now he's 4, and he still doesn't want to go anywhere near the seagulls when they're around.
SIMON: Oh, my word. So they brought in the big birds, right? Are these - what are they?
LEVCHUK: They did. So they have a combination of - I believe it's hawks, falcons and owls.
SIMON: So what do they do? Do they patrol the area. What do - are they on people's arms? What happens?
LEVCHUK: So it's a little bit of everything. You see them flying around a little bit, but what they're also doing is the handlers are just walking up and down the boardwalk once in a while with the bird or owl, whatever it may be in their hand. And just them being here has drastically reduced the number of seagulls that are flying around.
SIMON: Well, so it sounds like they were intimidated by the falcons and hawks.
LEVCHUK: Yes. And from what I understand, that's exactly what their job is. They're not trained to go after or attack the seagulls. It's just for them to fly around and have their presence be known and to scare them away.
SIMON: It sounds like you're a happy man now.
LEVCHUK: I am. I'm very happy with this. As a business owner, it's - we've had different problems with this. You know, a customer would come to the counter. They would purchase their french fries. And then next thing you know, they get attacked by one or two seagulls. And they'll throw their food down on the ground because they get scared, or they throw it up in the air. And from the one or two that first come after them they're now surrounded by 30 or so. And it's just - it's not...
SIMON: I've seen that movie, haven't I? It's "The Birds." It's Hitchcock, right?
LEVCHUK: It sounds like that. But I'm sure if you YouTube it, you can see a million videos of them from Ocean City, as well.
SIMON: Mr. Levchuk, don't gulls got to be gulls? I mean, to quote the great New Jersey philosopher Bruce Springsteen, "tramps like us, baby, we were born to run." I mean, weren't gulls born to swoop and scavenge?
LEVCHUK: Yeah, but not out of people's hands. I don't know them that well, but if I understand it right, I'm sure french fries and pizza aren't part of their daily diet unless they're in Ocean City.
SIMON: (Laughing) Randy Levchuk is owner of Jilly's on the Ocean City Boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. I mispronounced Jersey, right? It's Jersey?
LEVCHUK: Jersey. No, Jersey.
SIMON: Jersey. OK. On the Jersey Shore. Thanks so much for being with us, sir. And keep watching the skies.
LEVCHUK: Absolutely. Thank you.
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