Tourists in the Italian city of Venice have been issued with water pistols to fend off violent seagulls.
The large birds, which congregate around the popular tourist hotspot of St Mark’s Square and across the city’s many ornate balconies, have been giving hoteliers a headache for years.
Enrico Mazzocoo, manager of the Monaco and Grand Canal hotel told The Times, “a gull flew off with an entire steak, just as the waiter lifted the lid off the plate he was serving it on.”
The predatory birds have also been known to snatch ice creams, croissants and sandwiches out of tourists’ hands as well as smashing glasses and plates.
Are water pistols the answer?
After years of trying to deter the birds to no avail, the Venice Hoteliers’ Association (AVA) decided that a new strategy was needed.
From now on, if you find yourself sitting outside the Monaco and Grand or the Gritti Hotel, you might be passed a bright orange water pistol.
Orange guns are favoured as bird experts have told the association that this bright colour is particularly repugnant to gulls and more likely to deter them.
Paolo Lorenzini, director of the Gritti Hotel told ANSA news that “you don’t even need to use them, you just need to keep them on the table.”
While the gulls may be annoying to hoteliers and tourists looking to grab a tasty Venetian snack, they are in fact a protected species so cannot be dealt with in an inhumane manner.
What other methods have been used to deter the gulls?
The association has employed falcons, a fake owl and is even considering acoustic deterrents and nasty smells to combat the birds.
Some of the hotels have previously worked with falconers, but calling them out every day proved too costly to sustain.
Gulls are not the first bird to terrorise tourists in St Mark’s Square either. In 2008, the sale of pigeon feed was banned in the area due to a swarm of the birds in the area. It was previously the home of licensed bird seed vendors, attracting millions of tourists each year.
While pigeon numbers have decreased though, gull numbers have risen due to easy access to food and shelter provided in urban locations.