SEAGULLS were spotted fighting over an abandoned coronavirus face mask on Weymouth beach - as wildlife bosses revealed the scene was becoming an all-too-familiar one on shorelines across the UK.

Fears are now being raised for the safety of wildlife, with masks being dumped on shorelines and beaches, with people being urged to instead buy reusable face coverings.

Retired civil servant, Roger Lovell, spotted the gulls fighting for the face mask as they hunted for food on Weymouth beach, before one flew off with it in its beak.

He said: "It was awful. First of all it was awful that the mask had just been left lying around and then it was horrible seeing the seagulls fighting over it and thinking it was food.

"They were only young birds so they didn't know any better which was upsetting. Unfortunately we are seeing more and more face masks being left on the beach.

"It is very sad thinking that this could be a trend as if people don't clear up behind them then it is the wildlife that suffers."

The increase of face masks being produced to help reduce the spread of coronavirus is leading to thousands being discarded and washed into our oceans.

Coastal centres manager for Dorset Wildlife Trust, Marc Kativu-Smith said: "Sadly, discarded single-use face masks are becoming a common sight on our shorelines and beaches and have even started to show up on the seafloor. Disposable masks often contain plastics which can hang around in the marine environment for hundreds of years.

"13 million tonnes of plastic already goes into our seas and oceans each year and this new surge in COVID-19 related pollution is only going to make things worse. In the UK alone, it is estimated that tens of thousands of extra tonnes of plastic waste will be generated by masks alone.

"This new kind of marine debris, like plastic bags and straws, is a real threat to our wildlife and the health of our seas."

Marc added: "Luckily, there are more environmentally friendly alternatives. Where possible we would encourage people to buy reusable face coverings or you can have fun making your own."