Several endangered species, including rāpoka (New Zealand sea lion), kekeno (New Zealand fur seal), kororā (little blue penguin) and hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin) are at risk from dog attacks.
Lead the Way is an initiative which started in Otago and aims to promote responsible dog ownership and reduce negative dog interactions with coastal wildlife.
DOC Senior Ranger Biodiversity Sara Treadgold said Little blue kororā are the smallest penguin although primarily nocturnal on land, they are sometimes seen during the day or seen swimming on coastal waters.
They are also sometimes found close to human settlements and can often nest under buildings close to shore.
“More conservation efforts to control feral animals should allow native populations to recover. These endangered species will likely appear on beaches more often,” Sara says.
“There’s a huge amount of wildlife around coastlines and harbours which largely goes unseen, even around our own coast like Castlecliff, but their unique smell attracts curious dogs.”
DOC Senior Ranger/Supervisor Recreation and Historic Jim Campbell says last Saturday an injured little blue adult female kororā was found on Castelcliff beach.
It subsequently died due to the nature of injuries, suspected at the time to be from a dog attack and confirmed through a necropsy at Wildbase, Massey University.
“While little blues are relatively widespread, they are still classified as declining. The kororā should be free to use the beach in safety,” Jim says.
“We want dog owners to know that it’s possible to share the beach but it’s important dogs are either on a lead or trained to be called back quickly.
“Interactions with kekeno and rāpoka can also be dangerous for dogs, so being better prepared on the beach means we can reduce the risks to both vulnerable species and dogs,” Jim says.