More feral dogs seen on under-siege Far North farm – death toll now 120-plus

A Far North farm under siege from feral dogs escaped more stock losses on Monday night although a pack of seven was seen entering the property.

John Nilsson, of Shenstone Farms, just south of Cape Rēinga, said his wife Anne-Marie spotted the dogs emerging from Te Paki Recreation Reserve about 1.30am Tuesday during another all-night vigil.

The thermal scope on her rifle allowed her to track the dogs but they were too far away to shoot.

The only deaths that night were of another two sheep and a goat injured in an earlier attack.

It was hoped they would survive with a shot of penicillin to fend off infection but their injuries proved too serious.

The toll from a week of attacks is now more than 120. The dead animals include lambs, ewes, at least 36 of their daughter’s Angora goats and even a turkey.

Nilsson said he had been contacted by council animal control officers on Monday after a blaze of publicity about the attacks.

They had promised to drop off a dog trap but when he asked what else they could do they said “very little” because they didn’t have guns or poison.

Nilsson wanted a cull by shooting, poison or parvo virus.

Responsible dog owners had their animals vaccinated against parvo so they wouldn’t be affected, he said.

He was unable to lay poison himself because toxins strong enough to kill a large dog were not freely available.

Locals were planning a public meeting at Houhora to discuss the feral dog problem, he said.

Nilsson said the animals plaguing his property were not pig dogs, most of which were these days fitted with tracking collars to stop them getting lost.

They looked more like household pets — he recognised a blue heeler and a part German shepherd — which had been dumped or had run away.

Some years ago a stag had escaped from a nearby farm and the army had come in to track it down and shoot it, Nilsson said.

At the time it seemed like using a sledgehammer against a mosquito, but an operation like that would soon solve the problem.

Te Paki was not a huge area so it should be possible to eradicate the dogs, he said.

The strain of the past week was taking its toll on the family.

”You get hardened to it but it does affect you. You wonder if you should bother running sheep in Northland,” he said.

Far North District Council environmental services manager Rochelle Deane said staff had contacted the Nilsson family and would supply them with dog traps.

Animal management officers would help set up the traps and impound any dogs caught.

However, the council did not shoot or poison dogs.

”Our animal management officers are not armed and the council does not lay poisons. Poisoning is not something the council supports due to the welfare concerns it raises,” she said.

Deane urged anyone whose stock was attacked by dogs to call the council as soon as possible on 0800 920 029.

Witnesses should also try to get clear descriptions of the dogs, photos or DNA samples.

If the dog owner could be identified the council would investigate and enforce appropriately, which could include prosecution.

If it wasn’t possible to identify or locate the dogs, or they had no owners, the council could provide traps.

Earlier this year a campground and several tracks in Te Paki Reserve were closed for five weeks after a hunter was threatened and a horse rider chased by feral dogs.

The Department of Conservation, which administers the reserve, found no trace of the dogs.

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