It’s that time of year again. The silly season. It usually begins when parliament goes on holiday and the national newspapers suddenly have column inches vacant.

Often wildlife tales fill those gaps. You see headlines like Seagull Ate My Ice Cream or Fox Attacked My Toddler. Normally they wouldn’t see the light of day but in silly season anything goes.

We’ve just been treated to a real corker. Anyone remember the dog being seized and carried off by a “seagull.” The owner claimed she was hanging out washing when the “seagull” swooped into her Paignton garden and “grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.”

The implication is that the Chihuahua was hoisted aloft and carried away by this “seagull” as the owner said her partner tried to grab the pet’s legs but he was not tall enough.

Does the story stand up to scrutiny ? For a start there is no such thing as a “seagull.” There are about half a dozen gulls seen regularly in England at this time including Little Gulls, Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls which are far too small to seize and carry off even the smallest dog.

Herring Gulls are usually blamed when ice cream or chips are seized from started holidaymakers but would also struggle to deal with a dog. The 66cm long Great Black-backed Gull with a wingspan of 150cm might be capable of dognapping. But like other gulls it has webbed feet and could not pick it up like raptors who seize prey with special sharp talons. The GBB Gull’s beak is pretty formidable. But seizing a dog ? Surely not.

I still can’t get my head round that fox story a couple of years back, either. The fox was alleged to have entered the back door of an occupied house, walked through a kitchen ignoring several plates of cooling food , mounted stairs and attacked a baby in its bedroom. Foxes are only interested in two things – food and family. To suggest a fox would have ignored food literally available on a plate to penetrate deeper into danger represented by humans is difficult to digest.

Watch out for more silly season tales.