Sharpshooters watch through night for feral dogs in Northland

More than 100 lambs and ewes and about 36 angora goats were killed by feral dogs on the Nilsson family's Shenstone Farm.
More than 100 lambs and ewes and about 36 angora goats were killed by feral dogs on the Nilsson family's Shenstone Farm. Photo credit: Supplied / Anne-Marie Nilsson

By Nita Blake-Persen of RNZ

There are about 100 feral dogs estimated to be roaming the Far North, with sharpshooters keeping vigil over one farm where dozens of animals have been mauled.

Last week, more than 120 ewes and lambs were killed at the Nilsson's property near Cape Reinga.

Over the weekend, volunteers from across the region headed to the Nilsson's farm to help try and eliminate the dogs. Anne-Marie Nilsson said the support had been incredible.

They tried to flush the dogs out of a section of forest where they believe they have been living, but she said they did not manage to get any. 

"So that wasn't very successful, but what was successful was we had so many people turn up and we had Department of Conservation on deck for that as well, so there's a level of co-operation happening that's really admirable - I'm so happy about it," Nilsson said.

Other volunteers had been guarding their flock every night - they lost one ewe last night but also shot one dog.

"They give up their night's rest because they have to stay awake the whole night, and in the cold and the wet and the rain and just how humbling is that? New Zealanders are awesome, our people are just fantastic," Nilsson said.

Farm workers were starting to learn more about how the feral dogs worked. Nilsson said while they had earlier thought about 14 dogs were targeting their stock, it was now likely to be more than 20 - some with young pups.

They were using new methods to lure them onto the property, including a female dog in heat who is out in a caged kennel.

"Out there smelling very alluring, I'm sure she's got Chanel No.5 and we're hoping that some of the feral dogs will be fooled by that."

The farm has also been donated some terminal cows which are being used as bait.

After speaking to forestry block owners and other farmers over the weekend, Nilsson now estimated there were 100 feral dogs roaming north of Te Kao.

Nilsson wants the district council to change a bylaw reclassifying some dogs as feral, which would give authorities great powers to control them.

"My major concern is if we don't get something done - if the district council can't change their bylaws and we can't get some sort of management processes, these dogs won't stop at animals - one day it's going to be a child."