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Dog: man's best friend, kiwi's worst enemy - 28 August 2006

Kiwi mauled to death by a dog

When New Zealand Kiwi Foundation trapper Ron Dobbs held the broken body of the kiwi in his arms and saw the puncture marks, he felt sick to his stomach.

It was the third kiwi in as many months killed by dogs in the Kerikeri area.

He says: “It really upset me. I have to wonder what we are doing. Am I wasting my time?”

Ron is a trapper and spends countless hours laying traps and poisons to help private landowners eradicate the pests that kill kiwis.

“This kiwi should have survived as where I found it was where we are poisoning and trapping and I believe doing a good job controlling the pests, but you can't do anything about other peoples' dogs.”

A Department of Conservation investigation showed the kiwi was a juvenile, about half grown, and had died from an attack by a small dog.

The bird was particularly vulnerable as at this time of year juveniles are leaving the nest and looking for their own territories.

If a kiwi bird gets to this age it is already a survivor because cats and stoats kill around ninety-five per cent of kiwi chicks before they are six months old.

But having reached this age, the greatest danger for juvenile kiwis leaving the nest and adult kiwis comes from dogs, says Dr Greg Blunden Convenor of the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation.

“Dogs might be man's best friend, but they are the kiwi's worst enemy. Kiwis have a strong smell that dogs can't resist and an adult dog, even a small one, can catch and kill a kiwi within seconds.”

A dog won't usually eat a kiwi. The kiwi excites the dog that approaches it by kicking out and snapping its bill. The dog will grab the kiwi by the back or chest and quickly shake or crush the bird to death.

Two months ago in the same area of Wharau Road children spotted a small dog chasing around, worrying something, and having shooed it away found a kiwi newly killed.

When Ron Dobbs confronted the dog's owners they seemed unable to accept their pet was capable of killing. He says this is typical.

“The woman said to me, 'my dog won't even chase quail.' But then she tells me how it dragged a possum from the bushes and killed it in front of her.

DOGS KEEP AWAY

“I've no objection to people having dogs, but they must keep them on their own properties and they have to be contained at night.”

The New Zealand Kiwi Foundation says kiwi will not survive without the help of all New Zealanders. If you own a dog, keep it on a leash at all times when walking in kiwi areas.

If you live in a kiwi area it is better not to keep a dog, but if you do own one keep it under close supervision. And report stray dogs to the council dog control officer.