Date of this Version
EcoHealth (2012) doi:10.1007/ s10393-012-0760-z
A burgeoning ring-billed gull population along Chicago’s Lake Michigan beaches contributes to degraded water quality through fecal contamination. Egg oiling was conducted at Chicago’s gull colonies to reduce production and the influx of hatch-year (HY) gulls using Chicago’s beaches, with a second, long-term objective of eventually reducing adult gull numbers through attrition. We also investigated swim season water quality trends through the course of this work. From 2007 to 2009, 52, 80, and 81%, of nests at the two primary nest colonies had their eggs rendered inviable by corn oil application. Counts of HY and after hatch-year (AHY) gulls were analyzed during treatment years for 10 beaches. Water quality data were available from the Chicago Park District during our three treatment years and the prior year (baseline) for 19 beaches. HY counts declined at all 10 surveyed beaches from the initial year (52% nests with oiled eggs) to subsequent years with ~80% of nests oiled. Overall, HY gulls numbers on beaches decreased 86% from 2007 to 2009. Decreases in beach usage by AHY gulls were not detected. Compared to pretreatment, the number of beaches with improved water quality test rates increased each year through the course of the study. The frequency of water quality tests showing bacterial exceedances compared to 2006 declined at 18 of 19 beaches by 2009. Egg oiling resulted in fewer HY gulls using Chicago’s beaches and was likely a beneficial factor for reduced frequencies of swim advisories and swim bans.