Weka aversion session targets Russell pups

Last updated 08:22 14/02/2013

FOR THE BIRDS: The Department of Conservation is running a free course to train dogs not to chase and kill weka.

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A free weka aversion training session for dogs and their owners will be held in Matauwhi Bay Reserve, Russell, on February 18.

DOC Bay of Islands Community Relations Ranger, Helen Ough Dealy, says the aversion training is designed to help dogs avoid weka and follows requests from Russell dog owners.

Heather Lindauer took her dog Ilva along to a similar weka aversion course in May last year, and says the training worked.

"The next morning, on a walk my dog saw a weka, stopped, pointed, but did not attempt to engage."

DOC Whangarei kiwi ranger Pete Graham runs the course. He says the course is for dogs and owners who have not yet been trained as well as a refresher for those who took part in last year's course.

"It's really important that dog owners remember that avian aversion training should never take the place of good dog control, and that they need to continue displaying good dog management after the training just like they did prior to the training."

Ms Ough Dealy says: "Over the last 25 years North Island weka numbers have fallen nationally from 100,000 to about 7000.

"North Island weka are much rarer than kiwi and Russell is probably the only place with both kiwi and weka making their home here.

"Weka are a ‘boom or bust' type of bird. They have already died out on the Russell Peninsula twice before."

The current population was reintroduced by Russell Landcare Trust in 2002 from a Forest & Bird captive breeding programme that was closing down.

From the 39 original birds there are now estimated to be about 1500 living among the Russell, Te Wahapu, Tapeka and Okiato communities as well as spread out across the Russell Peninsula.

If you are a dog owner, the best way that you can help ground-dwelling birds such as weka and kiwi is to not allow your dog to roam, report roaming dogs to the council, and keep your dog under control at all times, Mr Graham says.

Call Ms Ough Dealy at 09 4039006 or email hodealy@doc.govt.nz for more information.

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