At France’s waterfront Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez, seagulls are a scourge. They steal peanuts from the bar. They screech down to the tables and airlift entire steaks. During the celebrity-stocked Cannes Film Festival season, they provide unwanted fashion commentary, spilling red wine on various red carpet dresses.
All the bad press in the world can’t stop them. So for the past few Cannes seasons, the hotel has hired security the gulls will listen to: other birds. Specifically, as Agence France-Presse reports, a team of vigilant hawks.
“My job is to scare the seagulls away with hawks,” the hotel’s hired fauconnier, Christopher Puzin, told VICE. (When it’s not festival season, the hawks make their living scaring sparrows away from supermarkets.) For this job, Puzin uses five Harris hawks, which are native to the American southwest, and are great at wrangling smaller birds just by looking at them. At Cannes, they hover about 500 feet above the tables like surveillance drones, warning gulls and pigeons to stay out. If provoked, they go in for the kill.
“We’ve changed the behavior of animals by changing the environment—urban, industrial, and rural, thereby creating an imbalance,” Puzin says. As he points out, the seagulls only come to the tables because so many customers offered them bread scraps. “Our mission is to protect both the predator and prey by restoring the order of the ecosystem.”
What if the hawks figure this out, and decide to restore balance in a more direct fashion? Should we be afraid?
“We are prey that would be a bit too big for them,” Puzin says. Plus, we’re the ones feeding them chicken necks.
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