Taranaki dog owners are being warned to keep their animals on a leash while at the beach after a blue penguin was savaged at Oakura.
"It's pretty disgusting. It seemed like an unnecessary thing to happen," Conservation Department marine ranger Callum Lilley said."It looked like it had been crushed."
The penguin was brought into the department by a member of the public on Wednesday but it died before it could get veterinary care.
"Be well aware that even though it may be a beach that's frequented by people, there are still wildlife that live in the area," he said. "Keep your dog on a leash if it is not of the nature where you can control it," Mr Lilley said.
DOC New Plymouth programme manager biodiversity Bryan Williams says the department will prosecute dog owners if their pets are seen harassing wildlife.
At this time of year, dogs are also bad news for seals. "Dogs are naturally curious and will sniff out wildlife," Mr Williams said.
But the seals aren't just in danger from dogs. Sometimes kind-hearted people will tamper with them, thinking they have been abandoned or are sick.
"Over winter we expect to see young seals along the coastline. In most cases they are just coming ashore to rest and do not require any human intervention.
"So if they are in a safe area, we prefer to leave them in peace," Mr Williams said.
Even the healthiest looking seal can carry infectious diseases that can be transmitted to people.
Sometimes seals sneeze, cough, regurgitate and look like they're crying, but these are considered common behaviours.
"We remind people to always treat seals with caution.
"Keep dogs and small children away from them. Do not touch them, whether they are alive or dead," he said.
If they are injured or being harassed, contact the nearest DOC office.
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