6 Apr 2021

Feral dogs roaming the Far North prompt track closures, warnings

6:08 pm on 6 April 2021

Packs of up to 15 feral dogs have forced the temporary closure of tracks and a campground in the Far North.

Feral dog

A feral dog (file image). Photo: Unsplash / Raychan

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has suspended public access to Twilight Beach Campground and Te Werahi Beach Track; Twilight Beach Track; Te Paki Stream Track; and Te Werahi Loop Track.

While it is unclear how dangerous the dogs are, DOC believes they could be threatening on more than one level.

DOC Kaitaia acting operations manager Abraham Witana said the animals may be disease carriers and could pose a risk to people and livestock.

"We're not too sure - obviously - how dangerous they are, but at the end of the day we don't know about their health checks."

Groups of the size being reported - such as the one report of 15 dogs to a single pack sighted by a local hunter - were new to the area.

Ngāti Kuri Trust Board facility manager Abbey Brown said while the case was serious, feral dogs were not uncommon in the Far North.

"Being a local up here, I know there has been the odd wild dog roaming around; people are going out hunting, mainly, and losing dogs and they haven't been found and they've sort of gone wild, but it happens quite often up here. These dogs will wander if there's bitches and whatnot on heat," Brown says.

Closures were expected to continue until the end of the week while DOC liaised with local iwi, councils and landowners regarding how to deal with the animals.

Kiwi Foundation convenor Dr Greg Blunden said feral and uncontrolled dogs posed a significant risk to the region's wildlife, especially "in terms of adult kiwi, for Northland".

DOC has since distributed live-capture traps to farmers, but Blunden said killing the feral dogs was the only option.

"Get rid of them - so that means shoot them, usually - and if you can find them or use trained dogs to seek them and get them completely out of the place.

"There's no alternative. They can't be retrained or anything like that, they have to be got rid of," Blunden said.

Members of the public are being urged to respect the recreational zone closures and to report any sightings of feral dogs to their local council.