The RSPCA has called for calm after a seagull was attacked and injured by an angry beach-goer after it tried to steal his chips.
Several witnesses saw the man repeatedly kick and stamp on the bird.
He first threw a plastic Coca-Cola bottle at the bird before cornering it against a building on the seafront at St Ives harbour in Cornwall, it was claimed.
The gull was left with a broken wing after it was kicked several times and stamped on as it lay on the ground.
A woman who witnessed the attack, said: “He threw a Coke bottle at it as it tried to steal a chip and cornered it on the stairs next to the Pizza Express.
“He then proceeded to kick it hard multiple times and another lady said he then stomped on it.”
The incident happened on Monday, 11 June, at about 5pm on Wharf Road, the main road running into the harbour.
She called the RSPCA, but another woman present took the bird to a local vet.
The woman added: “The guy was of skinny build, about 5ft 4in, with mouse-brown short hair. He was wearing a navy polo shirt. I hope the scumbag that did it gets caught.”
Seagulls swooping to catch chips, pasties, sausage rolls and even ice creams are a regular problem in seaside towns and notably in St Ives, with its high number of visitors.
In the past people, including small children, have been wounded in the gulls’ scramble for food and last year one person fell from height after one of the birds reportedly tried to eat her food on Smeaton’s Pier.
All species of gull are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which means it is against the law to injure or kill them.
Last year, business leaders in St Ives introduced nine creative ideas to tackle crisis, from warning signs, anti-gull spikes and raising awareness among visitors.
After the attack the RSPCA issued a plea for the public to be more understanding to gulls.
It said: “Unfortunately, many see gulls as pests but all it takes is a little care and understanding to minimise any inconvenience caused by these birds.
“Every year we receive calls about gulls which have been persecuted and the victim of abusive attacks. Many have stones thrown at them, others [are] left homeless after their nests are illegally destroyed and large numbers are the target of people taking pot shots at them with airguns.
“Gulls and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to intentionally kill, take or injure wild birds and action can only be taken against them under licence.
“Herring gulls in particular are a species of conservation concern in the UK and evidence indicates that overall herring gull populations are actually in decline.
“The RSPCA believes that deterrents and non-lethal methods of control are the best way to reduce gull related problems.
“Not feeding the gulls and disposing of rubbish properly, and blocking off areas where gulls normally nest outside of the breeding season will help to reduce the problems.”