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Dog attacks on seals becoming too familiar

Dog attacks on seals becoming too familiar find

For the second time this year Massey University’s New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre is being called upon to investigate the death of a seal believed to be caused by a dog attack.

Director of the Wildlife Centre Dr Pádraig Duignan yesterday [subs Oct 4] performed an autopsy on juvenile New Zealand fur seal found at Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast. The seal was brought to Massey by Richard Gill, DoC, who found dog tracks beside the corpse as well as a dog’s choker chain.

Dr Duignan describes the attack as “savage”. He says that it was probably a large breed of dog as it fractured the seal’s skull on one side and punctured an eye on the opposite side. It also bit the seal around the chest and abdomen breaking ribs and lacerating the lungs and kidneys.

“This is the second case this year in which we know a dog was involved and in the past we have had several cases where we suspect dogs,” he says. “When dogs are left to run free on a beach they can have an affect on wildlife, not just seals but birds and other animals – owners need to remember this and keep their dogs under supervision.”

Dr Duignan says the fur seal killed was otherwise in a fit and healthy condition so probably had come ashore simply to rest.

He says this year’s weather conditions related to the La Nina effect appears to have resulted in slightly warmer sea temperatures which mean prey species for the seals are further offshore and more difficult to catch. Most of the other juvenile seals that have been examined at Massey University this year have died because of starvation.

“The seal population is under enough pressure without the worry of dogs,” he says.

The problem of dogs was further highlighted last week Dr Richard Jacob-Hoff - the vet at Auckland Zoo and also a member of the NZ Wildlife Health Centre – tended an adult male North Island brown kiwi that had been attacked by a dog in the bush on the Coromandel Peninsula. It was sent to Dr Jacob-Hoff for emergency treatment but had to be put down because of extensive injuries.
Ends.

Contact: Dr Padraig Duignan
New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre
Massey University, Palmerston North
Ph: (06) 350-4163


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