Roam­ing dogs maul­ing birds


Roam­ing dogs at­tack­ing nest­ing chicks at the Waikanae Es­tu­ary are dam­ag­ing lo­cal bird pop­u­la­tions and alarm­ing res­i­dents.

In re­cent weeks the Ka¯piti Coast District Coun­cil re­ceived at least four for­mal com­plaints about dogs roam­ing off-leash in re­stricted ar­eas and, in some cases, lo­cals re­ported they had seen dogs chas­ing and maul­ing birds.

Waikanae Es­tu­ary Bird Tours op­er­a­tor Mick Peryer said the river­bank, sand­spit and wider es­tu­ary was the nat­u­ral habi­tat for around 65 bird species. It was now breed­ing and nest­ing sea­son, which made the birds even more vul­ner­a­ble.

‘‘For ex­am­ple, dot­terel – an en­dan­gered bird – nest in the flat sand and they’re so small that you won’t even no­tice a nest un­til you’re upon it. Un­for­tu­nately, when their par­ents are away, the chicks get taken by dogs,’’ he said.

Peryer said that oys­ter­catch­ers were an­other tar­get.

‘‘The young are the same colour as the sand and are taught to freeze to try and avoid be­ing spot­ted, but the dogs will just use their noses to track them down.’’

Peryer said the es­tu­ary area was pop­u­lar place for peo­ple to walk their dogs, but he urged them to be aware of where they were and were not al­lowed to go.

Ka¯piti Coast District Coun­cil pro­gramme man­ager of bio­di­ver­sity Rob Cross said that when dogs were let off-leash, they in­stinc­tively chased chicks that were on the ground at this time of year.

‘‘The Waikanae Es­tu­ary is of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance, renowned for its bird pop­u­la­tions that draw bird watch­ers from all over the world. One rea­son that it is a do­gon-leash area is to pro­tect the birds,’’ Cross said.

‘‘The es­tu­ary is pro­tected be­cause it’s a cru­cial place for birds to rest, feed, and breed. Chicks that live on the ground in the spring are easy prey for dogs off-leash. We are re­ceiv­ing re­ports from dis­tressed Waikanae res­i­dents who have seen birds be­ing chased and mauled by dogs in places where they are re­quired to be on leash.’’

The coun­cil’s en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards man­ager, Jacquie Muir, said that the so­lu­tion to the prob­lem was for peo­ple to have con­trol of their dogs at all times.

‘‘Dogs must be kept on­leash in on-leash ar­eas through­out Ka¯piti, and, when in an of­fleash area, they must still be un­der con­trol,’’ she said.

Un­der the Dog Con­trol Act 1996, in­fringe­ments in­cluded $200 for fail­ing to keep dog un­der con­trol; $100 for fail­ing to carry leash in pub­lic; and $300 for fail­ing to com­ply with the by­law.

Peryer said an­other con­cern was ve­hi­cles driv­ing on the sand­spit at the es­tu­ary.

‘‘The area is used like a motorway by white­baiters and oth­ers driv­ing to and from the river mouth, with­out a thought of what dam­age they may be do­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment and the birdlife.’’

More in­for­ma­tion about des­ig­nated ar­eas, rules and re­stric­tions was avail­able from the coun­cil, as well as on the Dog Ac­cess Zones and Ve­hi­cles on the Beach pages at www.kapiti­

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