Extra Security for Aotea’s Ground Dwelling Birds

Kiwi avoidance was first established in 1996 as a useful tool for dog owners to deter their dogs from injuring or killing kiwi if they were to go into areas where kiwi live.

Fast-forward 20 years to 2015 – the bird aversion training programme was brought to Aotea as part of the permit process to allow hunting dogs on public conservation land administered by DOC. The training and certification programme is offered to all dogs to help minimise the threat of dogs injuring or killing ground-dwelling birds, especially pāteke and tākoketai/black petrels on Aotea.

In February this year DOC supported a one-day training event with 6 dogs and their owners.

Pāteke Brown Teal Ducks

Dogs are fitted with electric collars and exposed to dead ground-dwelling native birds in a controlled situation. Kiwi bedding is also used for hunters who take their dogs hunting off island. If a dog sniffs any birds or bedding, the dog is given a negative reinforcement through a small but surprising electric shock.

Most dogs quickly learn to avoid the birds following this experience. The owner can continue to reinforce the training when the dog shows interest in other birds anywhere – gulls on the beach for example.

Dogs need to be tested again within 6 months to a year of the initial training. They will be tested for their learned avoidance and may be retrained if necessary. This testing or training is required annually until the dog consistently demonstrates strong
avoidance. When a dog achieves this standard, the dog is certified for periods longer than one year.

If you’d like to undertake this training with your dog later this year, or need a retest. DOC and Auckland Council advertise the trainings through Barrier Chit Chat or Barrier Bulletin. No booking is required. Dogs should be at least 8 months old to participate in the training.

Article and Bird Aversion Training Brought to you by Department of Conservation