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Ashford Designer Outlet in Kimberley Way pays for hawk to scare off pests

Eagle-eyed shoppers have spotted a talon-ted pair of pest-controllers at a shopping centre.

A hawker – a person who hunts with birds of prey – has been ruffling a few feathers at the Ashford Designer Outlet, stalking starlings and ensuring birds don't fowl the canopy of the centre.

Resident Dawn Knight, 47, spotted man and bird in action on a visit to the outlet.

A Harris hawk
A Harris hawk

She said: "I realised it was probably a new way they were thinking about pest-control, and I thought it was pretty cool.

"I guess your first thought is that it could be dangerous, but of course it's not. These sorts of places are always going to have problems with pests, and I think it's a more natural way of dealing with the problem, than crawling under a floorboard and dying of poisoning.

"I stopped and spoke to the guy and he told me the hawk is from America and that he was used to a hotter climate, so he was just getting him used to the new surroundings in which he'll be working."

Ashford Designer Outlet
Ashford Designer Outlet

Some animal lovers might find the idea hard to swallow, but centre owners McArthur Glen are by no means the only firm to employ the services of birds of prey.

In 2010, we reported how County Square in the town centre had employed Gary Railton and his male Harris hawk Norman to keep the seagulls away.

In May last year, Folkestone's KAP motor dealer employed a hawk named Alan to scare off their pests and stop them soiling cars.

And, as recently as October, Tenterden town council considered employing a hawker to rid the area of its pigeon problem, although this suggestion was dismissed.

A starling
A starling

An Ashford Designer Outlet spokesman said: "We run hawking as a deterrent to roosting starlings and will be continuing to do so for the foreseeable future.

"There is a visit every week or two weeks for the majority of the year until roosting season, late August to October or November, and then we will have a hawk onsite every day at dusk.

"This is to deter starlings from roosting on the cables above the tent fabric and reduce the amount of fouling on the new tent fabric to maintain the condition of the tent which covers the centre."

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