Cattle recently found dead on Dunedin beaches may have fallen off cliffs.

After the first two cattle were found, at St Kilda Beach, near Lawyers Head, and at Tomahawk Beach, a city resident told the Otago Daily Times he believed they had fallen from nearby cliffs.

A farmer and horse trainer who lives near Tomahawk Beach suggested the two beasts could have been swept out to sea in river flooding before washing up.

Three cattle have been found over the past three weeks. The latest was found at St Clair Beach on Saturday.


Dunedin police said they had been investigating where the cattle came from.

Otago Regional Council director of environmental monitoring and operations Scott MacLean said the owner of the cow found washed up at St Clair Beach has contacted the council.

He farmed ''on a clifftop above St Clair and identified the animal as his based on an ear tag from the carcass'', MacLean said.

A council contractor had arranged for its disposal, MacLean said.

Within the past two weeks, the council had been told of a carcass at St Kilda Beach, which was taken away by a contractor, and one at Tomahawk Beach.

A Dunedin City Council spokeswoman said the Tomahawk beast could not be removed because of its ''state'', so it was buried at the beach on August 16.

MacLean said cattle washed up on beaches from time to time, usually a few each year, and the regional council checked their identifying numbers, if available, to clarify where they came from.

It was still unclear where the first two cattle had come from, he said.


Regional council chairman Stephen Woodhead ruled out the river flooding hypothesis, as checks with ORC monitoring data showed there had not been higher than usual water levels in the Taieri River since May.

Cattle and sheep could be spooked by a range of causes, including wandering dogs, and it could happen near cliffs, he said.