Ensure your dog can’t get within a whisker of birds this summer

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Dogs cannot resist the sweet stench of seabirds and owners need to keep a close eye and consider leashing them on the beach this summer.

Gannet colony at Muriwai beach, North Island, New Zealand

Nesting birds are vulnerable to attack. Photo: 123rf

Forest and Bird Auckland and Coromandel regional manager Lissy Fehnker-Heather said dogs were very dangerous to birds, particularly flightless species such as penguins.

Even having dogs nearby severely distressed foraging and nesting birds – making them abandon eggs or go hungry.

She said it only took a few seconds for a dog to attack or terrorise a bird.

She has some practical ways for dog owners to help keep birds safe.

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

“Not letting then walk off your property and not having any idea where they’ve gone.”

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

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

She said dogs simply could not resist the scent of seabirds.

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

“Dogs can smell seabirds from really really far away. They’ll smell it and they will run to it.”

Extra care needed at spots

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

Mangawhai, Coromandal, Papamoa, Raglan were just a few North Island examples.

She said dogs were important companions, and it was about being a responsible owner.

Dogs are by no means solely to blame for hurting seabirds – cats are also a menace, and humans have destroyed habitats and killed them while fishing.

DoC’s website says if you find a penguin that is clearly injured or in immediate danger to contact 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Try and give the exact location and take photos to help staff make an assessment.

DoC said it received about 300 dog-related calls to its emergency hotline each year, and in the past 20 years has had more than 800 calls about them attacking wildlife.

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