Warning issued to holiday pet owners

By Coastal News, Whangamata

A rare New Zealand Dotterel. Photo / Greg Bowker
A rare New Zealand Dotterel. Photo / Greg Bowker

The New Zealand dotterel breeding season this year has been fraught with nest losses mainly due to predation.

These endangered shorebirds have ground-based nests in the sand dunes and on the beach.

While trapping catches many egg-eating predators including hedgehogs, stoats and rats, it is the increased presence of cat prints seen on most Coromandel beaches which is of concern, says Rebekah Duffin, ranger community relations for the Department of Conservation.

"Cats can roam several kilometres on a hunt, often using the same route through the sand dunes and on to the beach. Many eggs have been lost to cats this season, some on the verge of hatching and with adult birds being killed during the attack.

"As the festive season draws many of you to the Coromandel beaches where dotterel are breeding and raising chicks, we ask people to ensure the cat is kept indoors at night. When your holiday is over and you can't find your cat - don't assume someone will look after it.

"Abandoned cats will hunt the beaches, the bush and our wetlands here on the Coromandel - home to many of our endangered or native bird species," Ms Duffin said.

She asked dog owners to keep their pets on a leash.

"Don't just open the car door and let your dog roam down to the beach ahead of you - it only takes a minute for a dog to track down a dotterel nest and scuff it out or catch and kill a chick that cannot fly.

"By the time you reach the beach, the incident is over and you are unaware it has occurred - an irresponsible moment can destroy what has taken months to achieve," she said.

"Please keep dogs on a leash around nesting areas and learn the TCDC dog restrictions on your local beach. Dotterel are endangered and by being responsible pet owners you can make a difference this summer."

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