Seagulls are one of the animal species many would argue have become too comfortable alongside the human population.

To lessen the problem of gulls "who have become dependent on an unnatural supply of food stolen from people on the boardwalk and beach," Ocean City has contracted with a company that will deploy falcons, hawks and owls in the area on a daily basis from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"When East Coast Falcon's professionals fly the raptors overhead, gulls know instinctively to leave an unsafe place," the city said on its website. "Over time, the gulls in Ocean City have become increasingly aggressive in their quest for boardwalk food and beach picnics."

The effort, the city said, will not harm gulls. Professional falconry-based bird abatement is considered humane and effective for removing nuisance birds, and the effort received approval from the Humane Society of Ocean City, the city said.

"Raptors, and in particular falcons, have always been looked at by many cultures as a species that people can work with closely for things like hunting, or in this case modified hunting where they're not actually catching the birds," said David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Laughing gulls see raptors as natural predators, Wheeler said. The daily use of the trained birds will likely be more effective than a couple random deployments, he said.

The city said it will continue through the program through August. If considered successful, it may return next summer.

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