Far North residents have been left with a disturbing sight after more than 100 dead little blue penguins or kororā were found dumped on a Department of Conservation (DoC) track.
A local resident sent Newshub a photo of the dead penguins saying they were found over the side of a DoC track leading down to Chucks Cove from Powells Road in Cable Bay, Northland.
A DoC spokesperson said they believed the pile of little blue penguins was from people moving them.
"We believe the dead penguins found off the DoC track leading to Chucks Cove, in Cable Bay, are from people picking up dead penguins on the beach and placing them there," the spokesperson said.
"We had a similar incident recently at Rangikapiti Pā Historic Reserve of dead penguins being collected and placed in one spot."
DoC is urging people to not move any dead penguins if they find them.
"We ask that people leave dead penguins on the beach where they lie, to be washed out to sea or to decompose naturally."
DoC told Newshub they have been receiving reports of dead little blue penguins/kororā on Northland beaches since early May.
The spokesperson said the first report was on May 2 with over 20 birds reported at Tokerau Beach in the Far North.
The Ministry of Primary Industries conducted an investigation and sent seven for necropsy.
The results showed signs of starvation and hypothermia, due to a lack of blubber to keep them warm in the water.
The necropsy found the penguins had poor body conditions and their gastrointestinal tract was empty.
DoC said there could be a high death rate of penguins this year because of La Niña bringing warmer than average sea temperatures to New Zealand.
"It is a seasonal event due to La Niña conditions," a department spokesperson said.
"This brings increased sea-surface temperatures and onshore winds to New Zealand. These conditions can make it more challenging for kororā to nest and feed."
They added that breeding season is a "very stressful" time for adult and juvenile kororā.
"Not all fledging chicks will make it through to adulthood because of predation and lack of food. Breeding during a La Niña year is even more stressful and difficult on seabirds."
DoC said people can help the penguins by keeping their dogs on a leash in coastal areas and away from nests.