Bay Bush Action/Supplied
Conservationists believe a dog with the taste for kiwi is returning to the same area each night to hunt
Conservation groups are hunting kiwi-killing dogs who have wiped out half the population in a Bay of Islands conservation area in just three months.
Local group Bay Bush Action reports 11 kiwi have been killed by dogs at the Õpua Conservation Area in the last three months: with two happening over the weekend.
The area has a recovering population of around 22 kiwi – though it’s now likely at least half, if not most, of the birds have been wiped out, the group said.
Save the Kiwi dog specialist Emma Craig said everything points to wandering dogs who are returning to the same place over multiple nights to hunt.
“When you consider that if a kiwi can live its expected 50 to 60 years and could produce two to four chicks every year, this level of loss will be devastating for the kiwi population – and it will take many, many years to recover.”
The exact number of deaths could be higher, she said, as many dead kiwi are not reported for a range of reasons.
Sometimes it could be that a dog owner doesn’t know it has happened, while some others try to hide the evidence, Craig said.
“Feral dogs aren’t the only problem. Farming dogs, hunting dogs, even pets have been reported as killing kiwi and other vulnerable wildlife.”
Craig said owners need to keep their dogs under control at all times and do whatever it takes to never let them meet a kiwi.
Bay Bush Action volunteer Brad Windust said the team was devastated.
“Our volunteers have spent over 12 years and countless hours of hard work building kiwi numbers up.
“To have this happen is shocking.”
Colin and Kiwifruit are a pair of North Island brown kiwi residing in the water catchment of Wainuiomata. Colin wanders along a track, foraging, followed by his female mate, Kiwifruit, who has a close encounter with a pesky stick.
The team feels a responsibility to look after the birds, he said, and it rips their heart out to see the deaths.
The race is on to find the dog or dogs before more birds are killed, he said.
Windust estimates they’ve only confirmed a small percentage of the actual kiwi that have been killed.
Just a few weeks ago the valley was alive with the sound of kiwi calling, he said.
“Now, there’s silence.”
In the wider Northland area the Department of Conservation reported 45 kiwi deaths between April 2022 and April 2023.