Working up sympathy for sea gulls isn't easy.
After all, the common nickname for the birds among shore folks - "beach rats" - isn't exactly a compliment.
And when your closest encounter with wildlife occurs as a brazen bird is stealing a half-eaten sandwich out of your hand ... well, let's just say the relationship between gull and man can be strained.
But it is still upsetting to learn that the new Route 52 causeway between Somers Point and Ocean City is apparently a death trap for the birds.
Since the $400 million roadway opened in May, dead and injured gulls have been turning up on the roadside at a rate of one a day. Last week the count was well over 50.
You don't have to be an animal lover to be shocked by that number, especially since similar bridges in our area don't see nearly that level of avian carnage.
Bill Hollingsworth, executive director of the Humane Society of Ocean City, says his group is making so many trips to the causeway to pick up birds that it has had to buy reflective safety vests.
No one's sure what is driving the birds onto the roadway and into traffic, but there are some educated guesses. Herring gulls - larger and slower than their french fry-stealing cousins the laughing gulls - congregate on a low railing on the north side of the causeway, just before the last bridge leading to Somers Point.
They may be looking for crabs in the nearby marshes or small fish called spot in the channels, or they may be drawn by the causeway's fishing pier.
The theory is that something about the wind currents across that stretch of the causeway makes it difficult for the birds to get airborne. When they take off from the railing, before they can get high enough, some drift into traffic or are slammed onto the roadway.
And that's why this issue isn't just about dead birds. It's really about the safety of motorists. Ocean City police say they haven't yet seen any accidents caused by drivers swerving to avoid injured birds or reacting to a gull slamming into a windshield, but it's only a matter of time.
So it's good that the Department of Transportation is taking the gull deaths seriously and is committed to finding a solution.
Locals have suggested raising the railing to lift the gulls above the dangerous air currents or putting up netting, fishing line or a false railing to discourage them from perching there.
A cheap fix - and Hollingsworth's suggestion - is to put bird spikes on the railing to keep the birds from landing there in the first place.
The causeway, which took four years to build and replaced two outdated and troublesome drawbridges, has been a source of pride since it opened, lessening chronic summer traffic problems.
Now if we can just stop killing gulls.