Three dogs have been destroyed and two owners fined after the worst spate of kiwi killings in the Bay of Islands in almost 30 years.
Between May 22 and August 3 the bodies of eight kiwi mauled by dogs were found in the Wharau Rd area east of Kerikeri. The actual number killed is thought to be higher.
The deaths sparked an extensive investigation by the Department of Conservation (DoC) and Far North District Council animal control officers, which included matching dog saliva found on dead kiwi with DNA samples taken from dogs in the area.
They also patrolled the Wharau Rd and Kerikeri Inlet Rd area, looking for uncontrolled dogs, and went door-to-door to talk to dog owners. DoC senior ranger Adrian Walker said DNA was collected from three of the dead kiwi. Dog DNA could not be collected from the other five because they had been dead too long when their bodies were found.
"We also took skin and fur samples from four dogs. This was to see if their DNA matched dog saliva found on the three dead kiwi we were able to get DNA material from. The outcome of our investigation is that three dogs have been euthanised," Mr Walker said.
"The three owners have co-operated fully with the investigation and each agreed to have their dog put down."
Two of the dog owners were fined $200 by the Far North District Council for failing to keep their dogs under control. DoC would not comment as to why two were fined and not the third.
Animal control officer Ken Thomas said his staff would keep patrolling Wharau Rd and Kerikeri Inlet Rd for uncontrolled dogs. Any uncontrolled dogs in the open, or on someone's property, would be removed and the owner issued an instant $200 fine.
"Uncontrolled dogs are a major risk to kiwi living in this area. We won't stand by while irresponsible owners allow their dogs to kill kiwi," he said.
The penalties for allowing a dog to kill wildlife can be severe. The Dog Control Act states that the owner of a dog that causes serious injury to a person or kills protected wildlife can be fined up to $20,000 or jailed for up to three years.
However, the Wharau Rd dog owners were charged with the lesser offence of failing to keep a dog under control, which carries a maximum fine of $3000.
The worst spate of kiwi deaths in the Bay of Islands in recent history occurred in 1987 when a single dog abandoned in Waitangi Forest killed an estimated 500 kiwi.
DoC's advice to people living in kiwi zones:
- If you see a wandering dog, follow it home and speak to the owner or secure the dog if it is safe to do so - then call FNDC animal control on (09) 401 5200 or the 24-hour council helpline 0800 920 029. An animal control officer will be sent out to pick up the dog.
- Talk to your neighbours and come up with a plan to ensure your dogs don't kill kiwi.