Cape Rēinga tracks open again after no trace found of feral dogs

The Department of Conservation is defending its closure of four Northland walking tracks due to reports of roaming feral dogs even though no sign of the animals was found.

DoC said it had to close the tracks because public safety is its top priority.

The tracks and a campsite at Twilight Beach, in Te Paki Recreation Reserve near Cape Rēinga, reopened on Friday.

They were closed five weeks earlier on April 1 following reports from the public about four packs of ”extremely aggressive” feral dogs.

Incidents included a hunter who was surrounded and threatened by up to 15 dogs, a horse rider chased by dogs through Aupōuri Forest, and trampers whose campsite near Cape Maria van Diemen was rifled through by dogs overnight.

There were also anecdotal reports of neighbouring landowners shooting dogs that were menacing stock.

Following the closures DOC staff installed trail cameras along the tracks, carried out foot patrols, and set up traps.

However, no dogs were captured on the trailcams or in traps, and none were seen by rangers patrolling the area.

Meirene Hardy-Birch, DoC’s Kaitaia district operations manager, said there were concerns the dogs would attack and harm visitors, a risk DoC was not prepared to take.

The dogs also posed a risk to native wildlife and the livelihoods of adjoining farm owners.

During the past four weeks DoC had worked with adjoining landowners, carried out tracking and physical surveillance, set up trail cameras and traps, and put out animal carcasses as lures.

“A review of the physical surveying and footage captured by the cameras has shown no evidence of the dogs on the tracks which triggered the closure, so the tracks have reopened to the public.”

Hardy-Birch defended the track closures, saying safety was DoC’s number one priority.

”The decision to close the tracks was made with public safety in mind. We worked closely with the adjoining farm manager and were able to quickly ascertain this was not random lost dogs. They have naturalised and readjusted to living in this environment as a family grouping or pack and the territory these animals have made their home encompasses the public tracks,” she said.

”Secondly the breeds of these dogs are extremely aggressive. We are not dealing with docile domesticated breeds.”

Despite the lack of sightings since the track closure, DoC could not rule out that the dogs were still in the area.

Visitors were asked to be vigilant while using the tracks and report any sightings of menacing feral dogs to the Far North District Council on 0800 920 029. GPS coordinates of any sightings, along with photographs of the dogs, would be helpful.

Hardy-Birch said DoC would continue to monitor the area with trail cameras. It would also continue working with local councils and landowners.

The affected tracks wereCape Rēinga-Te Werahi Beach Track, Te Werahi Beach-Twilight Beach Track, Twilight Beach-Te Paki Stream Track andTwilight-Te Werahi Loop Track. The first three form part of Te Araroa, the long-distance trail from Cape Rēinga to Bluff.

Te Paki Stream and the track from the car park to the lighthouse at Cape Rēinga remained open.

Feral dogs are not new in the Te Paki area but there had not previously been reports of them behaving aggressively towards people.

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