‘Like out of Hitchcock film:’ TTC using sound cannons to rid facility of thousands of seagulls

The TTC confirmed this week it has started using the noise making devices at one facility where large flocks were causing serious problems for staff on site. David Zura explains.

By David Zura

The Toronto Transit Commission is using sound cannons in an attempt to deal with an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 seagulls that are trying to make a home out of the green roof on top of the Leslie Barns streetcar facility.

“It looks like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock film right now with all those birds flying around,” shared TTC spokesperson Stuart Green.

The sound cannons themselves, more commonly used at airports or landfills, are devices that make the occasional loud pop, like a firework, if needed. The idea is to make an area unappealing for birds to settle in.

“We sort of laugh about it but it can be quite serious. If you think about that many birds, that volume of seagull feces, can actually start to pose a health risk,” added Green.

He explained the cannons are not used all of the time, but will function as a backup to a system of nets installed on the roof over the last month.

“Right now, it’s proving effective. The birds are not happy because they can’t land on the roof and the netting is holding. The cannons are there as an added measure in the event that the birds, because 10,000 to 15,000 seagulls is a lot of weight, if they all decide to land on the netting for example, the could go through. They could tear the netting down.”

Seagulls near the outside the Leslie Barns streetcar facility. CITYNEWS/David Zura

The TTC said tests of the cannons at street level placed them at about 60 decibels of sound, which is comparable to a talking volume.

Deb Lyon, who has worked at the Leslie Barns facility for five years, said the seagulls should be gone soon, as they migrate away for the season, but added the problem has only gotten worse over time.

“Seagulls migrate back to their place of origin, so when they initially started laying their eggs up on the roof, they’d have babies, they’d migrate away for the season, they’d come back with their babies who would have more babies and so on and so on.”

Lyon added people and many vehicles have frequently been hit by seagull droppings as well.

“That has happened quite a bit. Which is why we have employees who are using umbrellas just as a form of protection,” shared Lyon, who adds she has not been a victim – yet. “I am the only one of my management team that has not been hit. Maybe it’s because I’m a runner.”

Seagull droppings can be seen on a car outside the Leslie Barns streetcar facility. CITYNEWS/David Zura

CityNews reached out to Toronto Pearson International Airport and Billy Bishop Airport to find out more about the sound cannon technology, however, both confirmed that they use a wide variety of bird control methods, but not sound cannons.

“Last year we experimented with hawks, that’s quite effective in terms of keeping seagulls away,” said Green. “The problem is it’s one hawk against 10,000-15,000 seagulls … In the past, we’ve tried gathering up the eggs but there are restrictions in terms of government restrictions.”

The sound cannons started on Wednesday at Leslie Barns and are expected to continue if proven effective.

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