Dog owners taking their pooches to Caroline Bay must be aware of nesting penguins, Timaru Penguin Group chairman Peter Bennett says.
The penguin enthusiast said the nesting time for the bay’s little blue penguin colony, which mainly lives at the port end of the bay, was nearly up.
“We expect to have small chicks in the nests during September.”
Mr Bennett said while he put up signs warning of penguins in mid-July, after spotting both penguins and dog prints in the roped area, he designed some signs for dog owners.
Someone had also reported seeing a dog inside the roped area, he said.
Dogs were generally considered the main threat to penguins on land.
“Most dog owners are positive to understanding wildlife protection, [but] some don’t care.”
He said signage and communication was the group’s main focus for getting the message out to the public.
“Maybe we need to address the problem with some type of fencing along the roped area to the tidal post as a deterrent to dogs entering the area from the footpath down to the sand.”
He suggested that putting just two or three more lines of rope through the existing posts might be all that was needed.
He said dogs would not be an issue for the penguins after September 30, as the council bylaw prohibiting dogs on the beach in summer would apply.
“[This] gives the penguins freedom to survive.”
The penguins were Timaru’s “hidden treasure” of tourism during the summer, he said.
“The penguins receive a massive amount of visitors over the summer.”
He said protecting penguins at Caroline Bay, while still ensuring the birds bred at the bay, was the group’s main issue.
“If we lose one penguin, we lose a mating pair that we have worked hard as a voluntary group to watch three pairs increase to eight over three .. years.”
Mr Bennett encouraged beachgoers to remember that the bylaw prohibiting dogs was for the benefit of families and visitors.