The kick was “no more than a simple mistake.”
That’s what Nate Rancloes told NH1 after he was accused of kicking a seagull at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, on Aug. 26. The 33-year-old man said he was trying to enjoy a burger with his daughter when a seagull swooped in and went for a bite of their food.
“Seagulls got to my burger, and while still sitting in the sand, I spun around in a circle with my leg out to shoo it away, and unfortunately, did strike the seagull hard,” he said in a statement NH1. “It was a one in a million bad luck kick that couldn’t be repeated.”
He told officials that he was just trying to shoo away one seagull and unintentionally kicked another, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Mike Eastman, a lieutenant with the state’s Fish and Game Department, agreed with Rancloes’ defense — but says the man still has to pay up, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. He said the man is charged with taking a protected bird during closed season, and he will have to pay a $124 fine for injuring the seagull, which is protected under federal law.
April Novak, a witness to the kicking, posted a now-deleted Facebook status about Rancloes, who she said “stomped” on the injured bird “very hard,” according to the Seacoast Online. That post garnered more than 26,000 shares and 7,600 comments, eventually leading state officials to investigate Rancloes.
But Eastman told the Seacoast Online that an investigation proved Novak’s story wasn’t true and that there appeared to be no malicious intent behind Rancloes’ actions.
Novak also wrote that the bird appeared to have a broken leg, the Union Leader reported, but the extent of the bird’s injuries remains unknown. Eastman says the seagull bit a woman and her child after she tried to bring the bird to lifeguards, according to NH1.
In his statement to NH1, Rancloes said the story that he “intentionally” injured the bird is just “atrocious.”
“It is illegal and immoral to injure a seagull,” he reportedly told the outlet. “If I intentionally hurt the seagull in front of hundreds of witnesses, I would perhaps be the dumbest criminal ever.”
Fending off a group of hungry seagulls isn’t easy, so one restaurant in Australia has armed diners with water guns to keep the birds away. In May, Toby Evans told CBC that seagulls had been harassing people at 3Sheets restaurant in Perth, Australia — and it continued to get worse.
Each table has a water gun. So far, Evans said in May, the experiment had been a success. He added to ABC that spraying the gulls with water isn’t harmful, as the birds live right off the ocean.
“People are defending their dinner and it’s worked so far,” he said in an interview with News.com.au. “After all the tragedies we’ve had recently it’s nice to have something with a bit of fun.”