One of the more recent videos in the trend shows a male beachgoer in the Victorian city of Geelong pounce on a seagull amid hysteria from his friends.
Cradling the bird in his hands, the irate seagull squarks at him until he throws it up in the air and it flies away.
The trend involves lying motionless hidden under towels with your forearms placed flat on the ground besides your head.
Food is placed on top of the towels below the arms in a bid to entice a seagull to land on the towel. When it does, the person underneath is instructed to quickly pull their forearms down, trapping the seagull under the towel.
The trend gained momentum after US TikToker Reese Kropp garnered 62.9 million views when she caught a seagull using the tactic in August.
A subsequent explainer video from a different user on how to pull off the catch has been viewed more than five million times.
And while the Geelong video has a moderate 42,000 views, it has prompted dozens of comments of support with some declaring they must try it.
‘Highly concerning’ seagull trend illegal
Dr Bethany Hoye, a silver gull researcher from the University of Wollongong, told Yahoo News Australia the trend posed a serious risk to the safety of the birds.
“The beach towel method is particularly concerning because there’s a high risk of harming the bird,” she said.
“The person doing the trapping can’t see the bird and could knock the bird out or break a wing with their arms.”
Dr Hoye said it was in fact illegal to trap a seagull without a permit even if it is with a beach towel and for a brief period of time.
“This process is to safeguard animal welfare – it checks that anyone who is handling wildlife is trained to do so and is capturing the animals for a specific, justified purpose,” she said.
“And no, a TikTok video does not count as a legitimate reason,”
And offering a key piece of advice for the summer months, she said simple preventative measures would prevent seagulls from pestering you while eating.
“Gulls can be annoying when they try to steal your chips at the beach, but if you guard your food and don’t feed them your scraps, they’ll go back to doing what they do best – eating from the ocean.”
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