Warning: Distressing images and content
As feral dogs maim and kill livestock in their hundreds on Far North farms with authorities powerless to stop them, farmers have begun taking matters into their own hands.
Shenstone Farms' John Nilsson says he and his family have fatally shot three dogs in the past two weeks, including one which was killed by Nilsson’s sister after it was caught stalking her.
While the dogs have killed 120 sheep on their farm, the problem isn't isolated to their farm alone. They’ve attacked two other blocks and have been spotted roaming on Department of Conservation land, temporarily forcing the closure of several walking tracks.
The authorities say their hands are tied, however.
“At this time point in time, when it comes to dogs on public conservation land, we can only trap them, and then we have to provide those dogs under live condition to the Far North District Council to dispose of correctly,” DOC Kaitaia’s Abraham Witana said.
Legislation and lack of action from authorities sparked a public meeting in Houhora.
Wild dogs are not classified as pests so they cannot be hunted or poisoned. Landowners are able to shoot them dead on their property if they pose a risk, however.
But some have taken action, with local man Mark Thompson shooting two feral dogs on Ninety Mile Beach.
“They had no fear of humans - it was either me or the dog,” he said.
Farmers are now guarding their stock around the clock.
“We've got nights out in the cold and wet looking though thermal imaging cameras and scopes,” Nilsson said.
There are three packs of wild dogs preying on livestock on the Nilsson farm. The dogs – a mix of corgi, kelpies and blue heelers. Nilsson said they’re cunning, living in the bush during the day and coming out at night.
Locals are now pushing for a change in law to allow for effective eradication of the dogs.
“Legally, if we were to go actively hunting them, that would be against the laws of New Zealand - that's why we need the legislation change to classify them as feral dogs,” Nilsson said.
“It's only time before they come out and get some little kid playing in the dunes or a tourist,” Thompson added.