Re: Dogs in environmental Parks

To: "stuart collins" <>
Subject: Re: Dogs in environmental Parks
From: (Syd Curtis)
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 21:15:59 +1000
Stuart Collins wrote:

>I'm a bit concerned about how to handle the problem  with dogs in
>environmental parks . Tallebudgera Creek on the Gold Coast in
>particular. The existing by laws are that dogs are allowed on a leash.
>Is there any evidence that the mere presence of a dog can be disruptive
>to birds? If I were  a bird I wouldn't be too happy with canines nearby,
>I'm not sure if I'd know what a leash was for.
>Despite the threat of fines, the laws are not enforced. Many dog owners,
>when politely confronted, respond that' my dog is an exception, wouldn't
>hurt a fly'.
>The local councillor has taken some action with more signs put up, but
>nothings changed.
>Any thoughts?

Yes, Stuart.  Plenty of thoughts but whether helpful, I'll leave you to
judge.  Dogs on nature reserves are a widespread problem with no easy

I'm not aware of evidence of dogs causing much concern to native birds.
Birds that fly well can get out of harm's way very easily and probably
aren't all that concerned about dogs.  (I remember watching a seagull
teasing a dog on the beach at Byron Bay, crows teasing the cat next door,
and Willy Wagtails often tease cats.)

But for birds that don't fly well, dogs certainly spell trouble.  In Harry
Frith's book "The Mallee Fowl", he recounts how the pair he was studying
would immediately fly up off the ground not only when he displayed a
stuffed fox, but when he displayed a few inches square of fox skin.  No
doubt a dog would cause a similar reaction.  And almost for certain
lyrebirds of either species would also react violently.  But alas no
lyrebirds or mallee fowl in the Tallebudgera area.  Probably not even any
Scrub Turkeys these days.

Dogs are of serious concern for native mammals.  The mere presence of a
dog, whether on a leash or not, will put them to flight, and of course the
scent of a dog is sufficient where they are concerned.  Birds, with some
exceptions, seem not to have a keen sense of smell.

Grey Kangaroos used to be quite tolerant of humans in the camp ground at
Carnarvon National Park.  Probably still are if the "no dog" rule is still
enforced, but I haven't been there for years.  Just to test, I once offered
a lady 'roo (and I use the word "lady" deliberately) a crust of bread by
holding it in my lips.  With great delicacy, she leaned over and took the
bread. (Yes I know one shouldn't feed the wildlife!)  But had one dog been
brought into the campground, the 'roos would have vanished immediately and
they would have been very cautious about returning.  At one stage at
O'Reilly's in Lamington NP there was a Quoll that wandered around the area
in daylight, a rarity indeed.  And of course the little Pademelons are
quite tame there.  Again, 'no dogs' is an essential ingredient of the

It is certainly sound policy to exclude dogs from Australian nature
reserves, but enforcing such regulations in an area like the Gold Coast
will always be difficult.

Fifty years ago there was a ranger, lets call him Ted Ambrose for that was
not his name, who was in charge of Burleigh Heads National Park.   Ted
waged a continual war against dogs in the Park.  Always carried a length of
cord with him when working on the park.  On encountering a dog he would ask
the nearest group of people if they owned it.  If they did he explained the
need to enforce the no dog rule and instructed them to take their dog out
of the park immediately by the nearest exit.

If they didn't own the dog Ted attached the cord and led the dog away.
Often this was sufficient to jog the memory of someone who suddenly
realised it was their dog after all.  But if he was unable to find an owner
Ted locked the dog in the tool shed.  If after a suitable period no owner
came forth to claim the dog it was buried on the park.

Those were the days when a large Police Sergeant's boot up the backside
returned many a potential juvenile deliquent to the paths of righteousness.
Like Ted's dog solution, not acceptable these days, even though it worked;
whereas today's expensive court procedures followed by an ineffective slap
on the wrist all too often fail.

Gaining the co-operation of the park visitor through education is probably
the best approach.  It works well in situations like Carnarvon and
Lamington where the park is at the end of a fairly lengthy road that leads
only to the park. For the most part, visitors go there only because of the
park and their interest in its natural landscape and wildlife.  They are
receptive to such messages.

A tourist resort area like the Gold Coast is a very different situation
with people coming from far afield including overseas, and often casually
visiting the park without any special interest in it.  But most visitors
who bring a dog will be Australians and there is some hope if all States
and all nature park managers observe a dog exclusion policy and endeavour
to educate people to conform.

To end with a positive suggestion:  The local council and the local
councillor are probably reluctant to enforce the law with fines on grounds
that this would upset tourists.  I suggest that an approach that might be
acceptable and productive, would be to prepare an educational video to show
the need for the dog prohibition (and it could include scenes from National
Parks in the Gold Coast hinterland as a promotion for the region) and have
this showing in some suitable visitor information centre.  Then issue
on-the-spot fines for dog offences, on the basis that the fine would be
waived for anyone who goes to the visitor centre, registers (with proof of
identity) and watches the video - providing it is not a repeat offence, and
computer technology would allow immediate checking of that.

To be effective it would have to be enforced.  The greatest, and in many
cases, only deterrent to unsocial behaviour is the certainty of being
caught.  An occasional spot check is not sufficient.  A few honorary
wardens with powers to issue the tickets would be immensely helpful.

Such a system would almost certainly require a new or amended regulation
under the Nature Conservation Act, as well as the concurrence of the
Council, so it won't be easily achieved.  I suggest that it would be worth
trying for however.

Good luck.

Syd Curtis at Hawthorne

H Syd Curtis

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