Dog Attacks on Penguins
Saturday 2nd May, 2009Press release from DOC 1/5/2009:
DOG ATTACKS ON PENGUINS UNACCEPTABLE AND PREVENTABLE
The latest in a spate of yellow-eyed penguin fatalities was reported to the Department of Conservation this week. Today it was confirmed by autopsy that the death was caused by yet another dog attack.
Four yellow-eyed penguins have died following dog attacks along Otago's coast in the last 6 months. An additional two penguin fatalities have occurred following suspected, but unconfirmed, dog attacks since October.
David Agnew (Programme Manager - Biodiversity Assets) and his staff are disappointed and frustrated by the increase in preventable fatalities, and the continuing disturbance caused to wildlife on beaches by dogs that are not under control.
Mr Agnew said "Yellow-eyed penguins are particularly vulnerable right now. Many are finishing their moult and are highly susceptible to disturbance by people and dogs, or attack by dogs.
"Moulting or sick penguins can show up on any beach in Otago so it is crucial for dog owners to control their dogs at all times, and to use good judgment to restrain their dog and keep well back from penguins and other wildlife they may encounter."
Moulting occurs between January and early May. The birds cannot feed until their entire plumage has regrown, so they are in a weak condition during this time.
"All penguins, even the healthy ones, are unable to defend themselves against dogs," said Mr Agnew.
Sue Murray, General Manager of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust reports an increase in the number of reports of dog incidents on local beaches from the Trust's field workers. "It is disappointing that people are continuing to walk dogs into the middle of known penguin breeding areas. Trust staff and the public have observed dogs being exercised in Okia Reserve, despite signage."
"The Trust is trapping to protect penguins from mustelids and cats, but the largest land predator of all is the domestic dog, capable of killing adult penguins in seconds."
Jim Pryde, Dunedin City Council Senior Animal Control Officer, said that most owners don't believe their dogs are capable of attacking wildlife or livestock. "Even professional trainers won't guarantee that a well-trained dog, if uncontrolled, will not attack another animal. That's why people must ensure their dog is under control at all times.
"We are keen to work with and support DOC staff when dogs threaten wildlife in any areas where dogs are not under control."
How the public can help:
- If you find a sick or injured penguin, please call the DOC hotline (0800 DOC HOT) or office (03 477 0677) immediately.
- If dogs are causing a disturbance and you are worried about vulnerable wildlife call DCC Animal Control (03 477 4000) and DOC.
- Put the DOC hotline and DCC numbers into your cell phone so when you are out walking you can make the call on the spot.
- If you find a dead penguin bring the body in to the DOC office, or let DOC know immediately with clear instructions on how to find it. All dead penguins found are sent for post mortem assessments at Massey University to determine the cause of death.
- Dogs are prohibited from some beaches and reserves across Otago. The status of reserves and beaches is stated on their signs. Read the signs before you access a beach or track. Breaching a DCC Bylaw attracts a $300 fine. Owners of dogs who kill protected wildlife face criminal charges, fines of up to $20K and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.
- Good information is required to start legal proceedings against a dog owner if an attack has occurred. You can help by noting as many details as you can, including: the date, time and exact location of the incident, and a full description of the offending dog.
Under DCC Bylaw dogs are prohibited from the following beaches:
- Sandfly Bay,
- Boulder Beach,
- Okia Reserve (jointly owned by YEPT and DCC),
- Allans Beach (north-east end, beyond access track) and Allans Beach Wildlife Management Reserve (Hoopers Inlet),
- Pilots Beach and Otekiho Reserve,
- Tunnel Beach,
- Aramoana (north of Keyhole/Bear Rock),
- Warrington Spit and Island.
David Agnew DDI 474 6958, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Murray Ph 479 0011, Mob 021 488 285, email@example.com
Jim Pryde Ph 474 3724, firstname.lastname@example.org