This translation was first published in French, on Friday, 29th August 2014, in Le Pays d’Auge : http://www.lepaysdauge.fr/2014/08/25/les-goelands-ce-fleau/
In spite of five sterilization campaigns, seagulls continue to colonize Trouville. Why are current solutions ineffective, and what to do?
A family takes lunch on the terrace along the beach, but a seagull has already left them a souvenir: some white and green sauce as complementary gift. “It is everyday, the seagulls!”, Trouville’s storekeepers exclaimed unanimously. “They defecate on dishes or go directly onto the plates that we are then forced to replace. This increases our costs and delay our work”, complained the manager of the Beach Bar.
“We need to lower the overhead blinds every morning, or they will come steal shrimps and sardines, their favorite”, cursed Frank, the fishmonger of P’tite Mousse. The tourism office also receives “very frequent” complains against seagull droppings, noise and smell.
A summary of sterilization campaigns
In order to prevent their settlement, the town council has chosen to sterilize seagull ova, following the example of other towns also invaded by the bird. When the campaign started in 2010, 630 eggs were treated at the cost of 14,000 euros. In 2014, the town council declared that 1426 eggs are treated for 25,000 euros. Doubling the budget should therefore produce twice the effect. So is the sterilization’s effect visible?
“It has been a real success”
“Not at all”, another unanimous answer from storekeepers. Indeed, the Normand Ornithology Group (NOG), an association responsible for the seagull census, has observed that taking new observatory points into consideration, the number of nesting couples have increased by more than 20% per year since 2010. However, despite such drastic growth, the town council affirms that the sterilization campaigns have been fruitful: 68 broods (nests with nestlings) are found in 2014, rather than 93 in 2013, indicating a smaller number of hatches.
“The campaign has prevented a large number of hatches. It has been a real success,” said Delphine Teulières from the town’s Sustainable Development Service. Yet the population continues to grow. Lionel Darraux from the same office reminds that the biggest difficulty is that because the seagulls are an endangered specie, sterilization remains the only viable solution because instead of actually a bird, but prevents eggs from hatching into birds.
“After 15 years of the sterilization campaigns, Le Havre has begun to see the positive results. Another difficulty is the access to rooftops,” he added.
In a total of 400 access authorization notes sent to addresses listed on the voter’s register, the council has merely received 36 replies. Many properties in Trouville are holiday homes whose home owners are absent for most part of the year, so attempts to contact and obtain authorization to access their rooftops are often to no avail. Then why aren’t the notes sent to the addresses where nests are found during the census? Delphine Teulière replied that NOG experts identify precise nests by aerial observation, but are incapable of matching the images to the relevant addresses.
Even the NOG says so
“It is an ineffective but very costly solution.”
However, is it really a matter of time and access to rooftops? The answer from the NOG is clear: “Sterilization can absolutely not prevent seagulls to come build nests. The method could have worked if it was deployed since the first sighting of the birds. The bird only needs to come nest once in its 25-30 years of life in order to settle, but it is impossible to sterilize all the ova that are around”, explained James Jean-Baptiste, an NOG employee.
“It is an ineffective but very costly solution. It is nonetheless applied by many towns, like Courseuilles-sur-Mer since 25 years ago, Cherbourg and Le Havre,” he detailed. When asked why these towns choose to use such an ineffective treatment, he did not hesitate to say: “it is because they want to appease the public with a questionable solution.”
If eggs sterilization is not the answer, there is a possible alternative. The first solution is already in place: the town is subsidizing 30% of the installation fees for anti-bird systems that prevent seagulls from landing.
However, since 2011, only 17 homeowners have filed a subsidy request. On one hand, this is because the cost for each installation can rise to as much as 1,000 euros on average, namely for bird spikes. Further, not all homeowners know such subsidy exists. On the other hand, if the town council would spend 25,000 euros for the annual sterilization budget on a 100% subsidy for anti-bird systems instead, then about 16 installations can be done each year, permanently.
The second solution tackles the root of the problem: “Seagulls come build colonies because they are disturbed at their natural habitat. One possibility is to create a natural zone where they can go nest and settle. Les Vaches Noires between Houlgate and Villers-sur-Mer is a possible location, but the towns need to file for an exemption from the Ministry in order to move hatchlings from the town to the designated zone”, James Jean-Baptiste of the NOG explained.
The sustainable development service of the town replied that it had no knowledge of such alternative, which will certainly require cooperative efforts with neighboring towns.
In conclusion, Trouville is not the only one suffering from this problem: according to the NOG, the seagull colony will soon extend to Cabourg and Dives-sur-Mer. If the town council commits to relief the community from such permanent nuisance, then it will no doubt have to collaborate closely with our neighbors. It is time to discuss with them.
In Deauville… [boxed]
Deauville suffers from the same nuisance as Trouville: 182 pairs of seagulls were visually identified in 2013. Aside from the sterilization campaigns that the town has carried out following Trouville’s example, Deauville has also deployed raptors to frighten the birds since seven years ago.
The company AVIPUR, specialist of public hygiene and seagull nuisance, has administered a raptor session this week, with the help of Harris’s hawks, peregrine falcons and two falconers. It is a solution that Trouville used in 2009 but has since abandoned due to its ineffectiveness.