Dead seagulls around Benton Township mall draw concern
BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mi. -- A mall in Southwest Michigan has been overrun by seagulls.
The Orchards Mall in Benton Township used to be the home to dozens of businesses, including stores like Sears and JC Penny, but now it's the home for thousands of Ring-Billed Seagulls-- a federally protected species of migratory bird.
The mall is trying to do everything they can to get rid of them-- but some residents have shared their concerns after noticing dozens of dead birds around the property.
According to one store owner, Norbert Zimpher, the gulls weren't a problem at the mall until about five years ago, and now, he fears they might drive everyone from the property for good.
“As the mall emptied out, the seagulls moved in," Zimpher said, adding that the problem has only gotten worse.
“Every year, we’re getting about double. We have twice as many this year as we did last year," he said.
The birds are so prevalent, they can be heard echoing through the nearly empty mall, and they're starting to wreak havoc around the property.
“All the feces that gets thrown around, I have to wash my car just about every day," Zimpher said. "The whole building is full of it. There’s babies out there everywhere now, they’re trying to get into the mall because they can’t find food outside.”
Other residents have expressed their frustration with the birds pooping on their cars.
Dozens of dead seagulls also litter the property, which as lead some concerned individuals to believe the mall has started to poison them, which would be a federal crime.
A representative for the mall spoke to me over the phone, denying the allegation, arguing that if they had done so, the gulls would no longer be a problem.
So far, the US Department of Agriculture has approved them to cull only two-hundred of the chicks and eggs around the property.
“We were able to remove some of the eggs earlier in the season, but as soon as you remove the eggs, a couple of days later, they replace them," said Zimpher, who believes that there are so many dead gulls outside simply because there is not enough food and water to go around for the sheer number of birds.
He hopes something more can be done, before the seagulls do more damage to the mall.
“They’ve tried different approaches," Zimpher said of the property managers' attempts to get rid of the gulls. "They’ve tried decoy owls on top, spinners and all kinds of things. [The gulls] just laugh at them. We’re trying to still be in business at this mall, but people don’t want to come here and be dive-bombed by seagulls. If a state agency can come in and recommend what we can do, and what we’re allowed to do here, that would be great.”
Again, as these birds are federally protected, any further mitigation of the gulls, such as culling them using poisons or firearms, would have to be approved by representatives of the USDA.
Until that can be approved, representatives of the mall worry that the gulls may be here to stay.