French call in drones as the war on seagulls reaches new heights
The Normandy resort of Trouville-sur-Mer has tested an "anti-seagull" drone to keep the increasingly aggressive, "carnivorous" birds at bay in what the seaside town claims is a world first.
With seagull psychosis at its peak in Ireland and the UK after a spate of grisly attacks on pets - and at least one human - towns along the coast of Normandy, northern France, are also at a loss at how to keep the birds in check.
"They are profoundly changing their living habits from eating fish and building nests on cliffs to living in towns and becoming carnivorous, as it is much easier to find food," said Pascale Cordier, Trouville's deputy mayor in charge of environment.
She said a woman had recently suffered a brutal gull attack when she unwittingly approached a chick on a pavement, and was violently pecked in the calves.
"They are no longer scared of man at all, and I'm worried that one of these days they'll make off with a baby," she said.
Local fisherman say the gulls regularly dive bomb them on their trawlers but they can do nothing as the gulls have been a protected species since 2009.
Instead of culling the birds, the town has used climbers to scale buildings and spray eggs with a mixture of formalin and paraffin to euthanise the chicks and keep the teeming population in check.
However, last year, a council climber was seriously injured after falling off a particularly precarious perch.
An expert in robotics at the College de France, the country's most illustrious university, suggested that Trouville devise a drone to spot seagull nests perched on roofs and buildings. They then swoop over them to spray the eggs with steriliser.
Built by Civic Drone, a company in the Paris area, the device is also protected by a buffer to fend off gull attacks and to keep the birds from being sliced by its sharp blades.
However, the new anti-seagull technique has hit a snag.
France's League for the Protection of Birds has filed a complaint with French aviation authorities, which has ordered the town to stop using the drone for now.
"A meeting is due in September to get authorisation and I'm convinced this will be a solution going forward," said Ms Cordier. (© Daily Telegraph, London)