A leisurely morning stroll turned to horror for one Hawke's Bay resident as she discovered a line of dead pheasants spread across Westshore beach on Sunday morning.
Judy Tindall made the bizarre discovery of at least "two dozen" dead pheasants strung up along the shoreline and, from what she saw, their last moments on earth were grisly.
"They were in bunches of four, two and one - it looked like they had been strangled."
Bewildered with what she had found, Tindall called the Napier City Council and the Department of Conservation.
"DOC were very good and said they would get in touch with someone from Fish & Game.
"People go duck shooting and they string all their catches together and it could be that someone's gone pheasant shooting, strung them all together and then - well I don't know how they ended up on the beach.
"Some of them might have been washed up - it looked like they had been in the sea."
"They could have been shot and dumped, but I didn't examine them that closely."
Tindall said she was walking on her own when she came across the dead birds, but warned others further along the beach.
"I did notice a few people walking their dogs on the beach who obviously picked up on it."
Hawke's Bay Bird and Wildlife Rescue founder and licenced DOC volunteer Liv Flynn said killing female pheasants (hens) was "highly illegal" due to Fish & Game regulations, whereas males at certain maturities could be hunted at certain times during game season.
"The fact that they were dumped and to see how they actually came to their death is questionable.
"For that number to be discovered on the beach is bad, and the fact members of the public have stumbled upon it is very disturbing as well."
Regulations on the Fish and Game website stated only male birds (roosters) could be hunted.
"It is illegal to shoot hen pheasants (females); they are protected as the providers of next year's crop," it said.
Flynn confirmed she and members of the SPCA collected 28 females and 15 male birds.
"There are still more," she said.
Flynn was just as astonished and confused as to how the birds ended up on the beach as Tindall.
"The only evidence we found was two bags with feathers inside which had been pushed in by the tunnels.
"They're all up the coast here, I can't see any evidence of bullet wounds or anything. But it was horrendous, they were tied up by their necks - but it doesn't look like their necks were broken.
"It's only speculation at this stage - but we don't know how the birds got here or how they died, but it's bloody horrible."
Fish and Game officer Nathan Burkepile said the situation was extraordinary and couldn't think why or how the birds had ended up there.
"Unless some people had some that they reared and they died and they just tossed them.
"Killing female pheasants is illegal unless they've come from shooting reserves.
"There are a few shooting reserves here, but I find it hard to believe someone would do something like this - take the birds home and then just throw them out."