Make sure your dog can’t get near birds this summer

Dogs can’t resist the sweet scent of seabirds, and owners should keep a close eye and consider keeping them on a leash on the beach this summer.

Breeding birds are vulnerable to attack.
Photo: 123rf

Forest and Bird Auckland and Coromandel Regional Director Lissy Fehnker-Heather said dogs are very dangerous to birds, especially flightless species like penguins.

Even having dogs nearby severely afflicted the foraging and nesting birds, causing them to abandon their eggs or go hungry.

She said it only takes a dog seconds to attack or terrorize a bird.

She offers dog owners practical ways to help keep birds safe.

“If you [are at] a bach that’s close to the beach or close to estuaries or wetlands, making sure you can always see your dog.

“Do not then let out of your property and have no idea where they went.”

She said owners should keep their dogs on a leash in places of high biological value, such as Department of Conservation lands.

Species like the kororā (little blue penguin) were active at night, and special care should be taken in areas with rock faces and cement retaining walls where they like to nest.

She said the dogs just couldn’t resist the smell of seabirds.

“The smell of old fish that’s been regurgitated, things like that, is really appealing to dogs.

“Dogs can smell seabirds from far, far away. They will smell it and they will run towards it.”

Additional care needed in places

Fehnker-Heather said places where there was a surge in holidaymakers could be particularly disruptive and dangerous to year-round animal dwellers who are not used to so many humans.

Mangawhai, Coromandal, Papamoa, Raglan are just a few examples from the North Island.

She said dogs are important companions and it is about being a responsible owner.

Dogs are by no means the only ones to blame for injuring seabirds – cats are a threat too, and humans have destroyed habitats and killed them while fishing.

The DoC website states that if you find a penguin clearly injured or in immediate danger, contact 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Try to give the exact location and take pictures to help staff assess.

The DoC said it receives around 300 dog-related calls to its emergency hotline each year, and over the past 20 years, it has received more than 800 calls regarding attacks from wildlife.

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