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A killing and a cull – Hard times for Henley Lake geese

A local woman is shaken after witnessing a goose being mauled to death by a dog at Henley Lake on Tuesday – ironically the same week that 125 geese were plucked from the reserve as part of scheduled population control.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Times-Age that while visiting the park in the afternoon, she watched a brown pitbull leap out of its owner’s car and beeline for the flock of geese.

“The dog was not on a lead and was not under the control of the owner, who called him and called him unsuccessfully,” she said.

“The dog grabbed a goose and then began to shake it.

“He savaged it to death.”

She said it took a long time for the owner to seize the goose from his dog, and when he finally managed to, he left with his dog and carried what remained of the bird.

“It was a horrific thing to witness,” she said.

“A mum and her little boy had left the area not long before.

“It would have been terrible for a child to see that.”

Masterton District Council [MDC] confirmed it is investigating the incident and is making efforts to speak to the owner of the dog involved.

A spokesperson said the council receives occasional reports of dogs attacking birds, but these are very difficult to follow up without positive identification of the dogs involved.

“Dogs should be kept under control at all times, even in designated off-lead areas,” the spokesperson said.

“A good description is useful – including breed, size, and colour, and perhaps the car registration of the owner.”

Canada geese were introduced to New Zealand in 1905 as a game species, but this status was removed in 2011. Greater Wellington Regional Council notes the species as an issue due to the damage they cause to waterways and agricultural pastures.

When it comes to the geese population at Henley Lake, the MDC spokesperson said the problem stems from goose droppings littering the path and lake.

“The main issue comes from their defecation, which becomes an issue when they are present in large numbers as it introduces bacteria and nutrients into waterways.”

The MDC spokesperson said that the council carries out an annual action to reduce geese numbers at Henley Lake.

“This takes place during moulting when the birds are flightless.

“They are removed from the site and dispatched humanely.”

The spokesperson confirmed that this week 125 geese were removed in this way, with more than 300 remaining.

This approach is a far cry from a goose cull at Henley Lake run by MDC and Fish and Game in 2011, which “distressed many people unfortunate enough to witness the birds being shot, having their necks wrung or being bludgeoned to death”, according to previous Times-Age reporting.

Henley Trust chairman Tom Ward said there are conflicting views about the geese at Henley Lake.

“There is a problem,” Ward said.

“They’re not very popular with most people and, ideally, they shouldn’t be there, but they come and go as they please.”

He confirmed the Trust assisted MDC with rounding the geese up for “rehoming” and said the Trust also facilitated egg addling by treating the eggs laid by local geese so they wouldn’t hatch.

Ward said that last year the cull did not go as planned as it was a week later than normal, which meant the goose moulting period had finished and the birds were able to fly away.

But when it comes to the goose dying in the jaws of a dog, Ward said this is a separate issue.

“We have quite serious concerns about control of dogs down there,” Ward noted.

“Unfortunately, that comes down to some owners and how they manage their dogs.”

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Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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