Dogs at risk of death in Gorge

The Department of Conservation is warning dog lovers against taking their pets through the Manawatu Gorge Track because of a heavy-duty poisoning programme.

In an effort to get rid of rats and possums in the scenic area, DOC has set up baiting stations laced with potassium cyanide and Diphacinone, both poisons that can be lethal to dogs.

Diphacinone is an anticoagulant that interferes with the synthesis of vitamin K-dependent clotting factors to the point where no clotting occurs. This takes several days in rats and several weeks in possums.

Potassium cyanide affects the central nervous system and baits are occasionally made attractive to pests by sprinkling them with sugar.

Historically DOC has issued permits for people to take dogs into the area but programme manager for biodiversity Nikki Pindur said that allowance had now stopped.

"We don't want people to take dogs in there at all."

This was a sentiment echoed by DOC visitor assets programme manager Andrew Mercer, who said it was frustrating when people walked the gorge track with dogs, often off the lead.

"It only takes one minute of lack of attention and the consequences could be dire," he said.

There was considerable signage warning people of the risks, but Mr Mercer said some people ignored the warnings.

Ms Pindur said there had been incidents in other reserves where dogs had swallowed bait and DOC did not want to see it happen in Manawatu.

"We haven't had any reports so far and we'd like to keep it that way."

She said the poisoning was aimed at rats and possums so native bush could regenerate and native birds would return to the area.

"We want more rata back and possums are destroying that. Currently there is tui, kaka and kereru here and we want to see more of them."

She said the poisoning would continue on a long-term basis to ensure pests were kept out of the area.

"We might vary the poison and the delivery method but it will continue."

Ms Pindur said the community, including Ashhurst Action Group, had been active in helping DOC regenerate the area.

The gorge walk track is being upgraded to include a loop alternative, and a cycle track is also under way for the future.

Manawatu Standard