Swimmer in Kerry seeks medical aid after seagull attack

Man receives tetanus shots after beating off bird which drew blood from his hand

A visitor to Fenit in Co Kerry was attacked while swimming at sea by a gull. The attack happened about 70 metres off the shoreline and medical attention was needed. Photograph: ThinkStock

A visitor to Fenit in Co Kerry was attacked while swimming at sea by a gull. The attack happened about 70 metres off the shoreline and medical attention was needed. Photograph: ThinkStock

 

A swimmer has been attacked by a seagull in the sea at Fenit in Co Kerry.

The attack happened on Tuesday last week around 70 metres off the shoreline and medical attention was needed, senior county council officers have confirmed.

The gull swooped on the man – believed to be a visitor to the area – and returned a second time.

The man beat off the gull but it drew blood from his hand. Lifeguards directed him to the emergency department at Kerry General Hospital where it is understood he received tetanus shots.

Brendan O’Connor, water safety officer with Kerry County Council said in his 40 years of beach and coastal activities this is the first such attack ever reported by lifeguards in Kerry which has 684km of coastlines, one of the longest in the country.

Mr O’Connor believes it is part of a pattern of unusual behaviour by gulls. The gull in question was a great black-backed gull, rather than a herring gull, he said. The black-backed can have a wingspan of up to 1.7 metres.

“He broke skin – pecked him- and came back for another bite,” the officer said.

The swimmer was simply swimming and was not doing anything unusual “when the gull swooped on him,” he added.

“He was beating off the gull and trying to attract the attention of the life guards,” he said.

The swimmer, who was near the buoys off Fenit beach, a traditional target for long distance and strong swimmers, tried to summon the attention of the two lifeguards while attempting to beat off the gull.

“This is the first time I have ever heard of such an attack by a gull on a swimmer,” Mr O’Connor said.

The incident took place at around 4.30pm and the lifeguards advised the injured swimmer to go for tetanus shots.

The attack is the latest in a number of extraordinary reports of aggressive behaviour by gulls in Kerry this year including the killing of two mountain ewes near Lispole in west Kerry and an attack on a motorcyclist in south Kerry.

Micheál O’Coileain, the environmental officer with the council, said the fact that there are no landfill sites now in Kerry, or indeed in the whole region, may be a factor in the gulls’ strange behaviour including the movement further and further inland.