A wandering dog has been blamed for the deaths of at least five kiwi in what is believed to be a series of attacks in the Ōkaihau area over the last fortnight, adding to an increasingly grim tally of Kiwi deaths across Northland.
The dead birds were found in the Signals Rd area, off Waiare Rd, opposite the Ōkaihau golf course, which provides access to a number of lifestyle properties and farms backing on to the Aratoro Conservation Area, which is connected by an almost unbroken corridor of bush to Northland's biggest native forest, Puketi.
Department of Conservation spokeswoman Abigail Monteith confirmed the deaths of five kiwi were being investigated. Details were still limited, but the injuries were consistent with dog attacks, she said, adding that the department was saddened by the loss of the birds.
Monteith said dog owners had a responsibility to keep their pets under control at all times in areas where wild kiwi lived.
''All dogs, no matter the age, gender and size, are capable of crushing the delicate bodies and organs of baby and adult kiwi. And by killing breeding adult kiwi, dogs threaten the future existence of our national icon, which is already in serious decline,'' she said.
Far North District Council environmental services manager Rochelle Deane said animal control staff were called by DOC last week to collect and hold a dog on its behalf while it investigated a number of kiwi deaths.
DOC staff had caught the dog straying in the Ōkaihau area, and had taken a DNA swab. If test results show the dog was responsible for kiwi attacks it would be up to DOC to decide how to proceed, but the dog would be transferred to the department's custody.
The Signals Rd deaths were the worst since February 2018, when dogs killed at least six kiwi over several days on Hansen Rd, on the Purerua Peninsula, in the northern Bay of Islands, an area that has one of the densest populations of North Island brown kiwi in the country.
In the wake of that attack DOC took DNA samples from 16 dogs at two properties on Hansen Rd, and tried to match them to dog saliva found on the dead birds. DNA from one dog was a perfect match on one bird, but the other saliva samples had degraded, making the results inconclusive. As a result the prosecution was abandoned.
Documents obtained by the 'Northern Advocate' under the Official Information Act suggested the dog owner had been unco-operative, for example by preventing DOC rangers from being present while saliva samples were collected from the dogs.
In winter 2015 at least eight kiwi were killed by dogs in the Inlet Rd-Wharau Rd area east of Kerikeri, most of them near Quinces Landing, but a few close to Wharau Bay. In that case DOC and the FNDC worked together to identify dogs owned by three local residents.
Two of the dogs were surrendered, while the owner of the third said he had put the animal down himself. Two owners were fined $200 for failing to keep their dogs under control.
Vehicles also take a toll on the national bird, with at least seven killed by cars in the Rangitane-Opito Bay area, north of Kerikeri, last year. Three more were killed on Opito Bay Rd in the space of a week in January this year.
The worst known loss of kiwi anywhere in New Zealand occurred in the Waitangi Forest, between Kerikeri and Paihia, in 1987, when a single dog dumped in bush killed an estimated 500 kiwi. By the time the dog was caught it had been living off the ground-dwelling birds for six weeks.
The official conservation status of the North Island brown kiwi is 'declining.'