The discovery of two kiwi mauled by dogs is a stark reminder of the need to keep dogs under control at all times, a Department of Conservation ranger says.
The dead kiwi were found on the Hihi Peninsula, near Mangonui in Doubtless Bay, where a group of land owners set up the Whakaangi Landcare Trust in 2003 to control predators, conserve kiwi and restore native forest.
Ranger Irene Petrove said a shocked and upset Whakaangi woman alerted DoC's Kaitaia area office to the deaths, which an autopsy found had been caused by dogs.
The dogs were traced to a Hihi resident who was at work when his animals slipped their collars and travelled at least 4km to the Hihi Peninsula.
Ms Petrove said dogs could kill large numbers of kiwi in a short time. "Dogs are a major threat to kiwi and other wildlife. It is the owner's responsibility to keep their dogs under control. Control means that an owner knows where their dog is and what it is doing at all times," she said.
Ms Petrove urged dog owners to book their pets into a kennel when going on holiday.
"When you're out walking keep your dog on a lead and remember, just because you have your dog tied up, doesn't mean that it can't get free. It's your responsibility to ensure that it doesn't," she said.
DoC Kaitaia spokeswoman Carolyn Smith said the dogs had been picked up by a council animal control officer in the area where the kiwi were found, and had been roaming at the time the birds were killed.
While it was highly likely the dogs were responsible, the owner could not be prosecuted because it could not be proven.
No one had seen the dogs attack the kiwi and the bodies were too decomposed to get dog DNA from their feathers. Ms Smith said uncontrolled dogs were the number one killer of kiwi in Northland.
"Over the past few years, there's been an intensive campaign to alert people to this fact. Despite this, some people are still choosing to not keep their dogs under control, resulting in continued slaughter of kiwi. It's not the dogs' fault, they're acting out of instinct.
"Remember that kiwi can be living in your hedge, in pastureland, even in pampas and scrub on the side of the road. And all dogs can be kiwi killers," she said.