Sea gulls shot in Dunedin

Over the past two months, three seagulls- including two protected red-billed gulls/ tarapūnga – have been admitted to the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital after suffering from gunshot wounds, most likely from BB guns or air rifles.

DOC Coastal Otago Operations Manager Gabe Davies says there’s no excuse for this behaviour.

“DOC staff are very concerned about these incidents – and any in which wildlife is deliberately harmed. We take these incidents very seriously – we urge the public to report any incidents involving firearms and native birds, or any protected native species for that matter.”

One red-billed gull was admitted to Dunedin Wildlife Hospital with an injured wing. Radiographs revealed a pellet or bullet in the body cavity. The injury was at least 2-3 weeks old given the skin had completely healed. The bird was in very poor condition and not able to use or feel the left wing, so he was sadly euthanised. During post-mortem the pellet was found to be embedded in the left lung. The gull also had aspergillosis infection, likely due to the stress and immunosuppression from the injury.

Another red-billed gull was admitted in October with a BB gun pellet injury. The injury was at least a few days old at the time. The bird could not fly.

A black-backed gull was also found with a BB gun bullet in the neck, with the injury suspected to be around 2-3 weeks old. Black-backed gulls are not protected, but wilful ill-treatment of a wild animal is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

Gabe says it is frustrating and distressing to hear of this kind of wilful mistreatment.

“Undoubtedly, these gulls have been suffering – some of them over a period of weeks. As red-billed gulls are commonly seen in coastal areas, many people don’t realise their numbers are declining nationally. The species currently has a conservation status of ‘at-risk: declining’.

“It’s thanks to the great work of the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital we are able to understand the cause of these and other injuries suffered by local wildlife. It’s alarming to think injuries of this nature may not have been picked up on in the past.”

Hunting or killing absolutely protected wildlife carries a maximum penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

Incidents can be reported to:

  • DOC on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

People are asked to record details of vehicles, descriptions of people, locations, species and when they saw the incident. We do not encourage people to intervene if they see an incident occurring – report it to us, or NZ Police.

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