Otago Daily Times

At­tack on sea lion angers

‘The beach is wildlife ter­ri­tory’

- MOLLY HOUSEMAN New Zealand · Dunedin · New Zealand Department of Conservation

A PHOTO of a dog at­tack­ing a threat­ened New Zealand sea lion on a Dunedin beach has an­gered the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion.

Evgeny Rody­gin was on Smaills Beach last week when he saw the dog ap­proach and be­gin bark­ing at a rest­ing sea lion.

He took a photo and posted it online to re­mind peo­ple to put their dogs on a leash.

‘‘I think that ev­ery­one should re­spect that the beach is wildlife ter­ri­tory and fol­low com­mon­sense rules,’’ Mr Rody­gin said.

De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (Doc) ma­rine and coastal species li­ai­son of­fi­cer Chris Page said it was up­set­ting to see, es­pe­cially as it was pre­ventable.

Dog in­ter­ac­tions were stress­ful for sea lions and Doc had seen dog at­tacks in the past that caused ‘‘grue­some’’ in­juries and even killed ma­rine mam­mals.

‘‘We are lucky to have so many ma­rine mam­mals, pen­guins and shore­birds fre­quent­ing our coast­line — we need to be bet­ter at shar­ing the space,’’ he said.

It was in ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­est to en­sure beaches were shared and dogs were kept un­der con­trol, as they could also get in­jured or con­tract ill­ness from wildlife.

Mr Page said dog own­ers should al­ways carry a lead and scan the beach thor­oughly be­fore re­leas­ing their pet.

Peo­ple should also stay at least 10m away from sleep­ing sea lions and 20m away while they were awake.

New Zealand Sea Lion Trust education ad­viser Hanna Ravn said ha­rass­ment of wildlife was an il­le­gal act, so it could be re­ported and pros­e­cuted.

‘‘We try the best that we can to ed­u­cate in a pos­i­tive way, but some­times we do wish that there could be more back­ups from the le­gal side.’’

It was im­por­tant to al­ways be con­sid­er­ate to­wards sea lions.

‘‘The fe­male sea lions are trav­el­ling some­times hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres a day to go and fish and then come back to the shore.’’

If the sea lions did not feel safe to come ashore to where their pups were that could have some ‘‘big con­se­quences’’, she said.

At times, the moth­ers were also gone for days at a time so when they fi­nally re­turned it was im­por­tant to feed the pups quickly.

Ms Ravn said peo­ple could also help keep sea lions safe by let­ting the trust know when they saw a sea lion by re­port­ing its tag num­ber, but only if they had a cam­era with a good zoom or binoc­u­lars to read the tag with­out get­ting close.

 ?? PHOTO: EVGENY RODY­GIN ?? Caught in the act . . . A dog off its leash dis­turbs a sea lion rest­ing on Smaills Beach, in Dunedin, last week.
PHOTO: EVGENY RODY­GIN Caught in the act . . . A dog off its leash dis­turbs a sea lion rest­ing on Smaills Beach, in Dunedin, last week.

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