Conservation and four-legged friends

Department of Conservation —  11/01/2016

DOC Ranger Caraline Abbott discusses dogs and their impact on conservation in the Rotorua District.

Dogs have a significant impact on conservation. We coo over the tales of Pai and Piri – two well loved and hard working conservation dogs.

Fin Buchanan and rat detecting dog Jack

Fin Buchanan and rat detecting dog Jack are ready to help with biosecurity at Mokoia Island Wildlife Refuge.

Specifically trained dogs play a major role in the conservation of species such as kākāpō, kiwi, whio, pāteke and takahē. While these dogs are trained to help protect our native species, other four legged-friends (or four-legged fiends) can be detrimental to our efforts.

Chatting to hunters, dogs are man’s best friend. A well trained dog can easily sniff out ecological pests like deer, pigs and possums. Hunting companions can be helpful, and for this reason a Rotorua District hunting permit allows for two dogs per hunter. Unfortunately, the down side to using dogs as hunting companions is the tendency of some to attack native and threatened species like our kiwi.

Reports of a dog killing nesting gulls reached our Rotorua office last week. Black –billed gulls are considered the world’s most threatened gull species and have just started nesting around the Sulphur Bay Wildlife Refuge. Sadly, this is the second dog-related incident affecting threatened gulls in the last twelve months.  Earlier this year, a Rotorua man was prosecuted when dogs under his control attacked and killed two red-billed gulls.

Black billed gull. Photo: Andrew Walmsley.

The black billed gull is the most threatened gull species in the world. Photo: Andrew Walmsley.

Instances like these (and the legislation guiding our work) has led us to deny dogs at our local conservation campsites. Although dogs are no longer allowed in these areas, we still support man’s best friend in other ways.

Support for dog owners

We continue to support the use of well trained hunting dogs by responsible hunters. This includes facilitating kiwi aversion training. We are even looking into ways to make this training more effective.We are also continuing to support the conservation dogs programme and use dogs as a tool in our biosecurity work to help restore and protect New Zealand’s Heritage.

We’ll use our website to keep the community up to date with dog related issues including dog access on conservation land in the Rotorua District. Any pest control methods used by DOC in conservation areas that may affect dogs will be listed in our pesticide summary so owners know not to take their animals into these places.

Lake Okareka, Rotorua.

Lake Okareka campsite in Rotorua is now dog free.

Education, training and effective management of dogs will hopefully allow our campsites and threatened species to thrive in the future.