A WADING bird chick thought to be one of the first oystercatchers hatched at Mudeford spit for more than 60 years is suspected to have been killed by a dog.
According to reports, the owner of the dog was staying in one of the beach huts nearby and allegedly “showed no remorse” after his pet rushed into a fenced-off protective area and grabbed the bird in its mouth.
A source told the A&T: “Witnesses who saw the incident happen said the person didn’t seem to care about what had happened, which makes it all the worse.”
There had been huge excitement in the ornithological world when the birth was announced of two oystercatchers – black-and-white wading birds with a bright orange beak.
They were the first chicks of their type to be seen in the area for 63 years. The Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (CHOG) along with BCP Council erected fences and warning signs near their nest in an effort to protect them.
The signs warned dog owners not to let their animals off the lead and to avoid the area. But on Friday afternoon a person with two dogs – a spaniel and a dachshund – apparently ignored the signs and took them near the oystercatchers’ nest.
According to eyewitness reports, the dachshund raced off and grabbed the chick in its mouth. A beach hut owner who saw the incident rushed to rescue the bird and managed to make the dog drop it.
The chick escaped to nearby rocks but was found dead the next morning outside the fenced area.
An investigation has now been launched by the Dorset dog warden with the assistance of Christchurch police officers.
Gary Foyle, BCP community and recreation team leader, said: “We are deeply saddened about the death of an oystercatcher chick at Mudeford sandbank.
“It has been over 60 years since they were last seen nesting at this location, which created a great deal of excitement in the local community, and many people were actively involved in helping to protect the nesting site.
“We have launched an investigation with Dorset Police following several reports of a dog out of control on the site, and we remain confident that the owner will be found and prosecuted.”
A member of CHOG told the A&T: “I heard the news on Saturday morning and was just devastated. Just really upset and angry.
“We are hoping that there can be some sort of prosecution under byelaws as it does seem as if the dog owner ignored the warning signs and caused a wilful disturbance to the nesting area.
“It’s assumed the dog was responsible for the death of the chick, all the signs are that the bird died from injuries sustained from the dog attack.
“At the very least we are hoping that the tragic death of this chick will raise awareness of the dangers of letting dogs off the lead into nesting areas.
“We are also looking at better ways that we can protect these areas in the future. There were fences and warning signs but sadly this was not enough.”
Sadly, one chick disappeared shortly after it was born, believed to have been taken by a gull. But the other one appeared to be doing well and had even been videoed waddling along the shore.
Oystercatchers have a loud peeping call. There are around 110,000 breeding pairs in the UK.
On Monday Christchurch police attended the Mudeford nesting site with a member of BCP Council to speak to potential witnesses.
The police later tweeted: “Please keep dogs on leads in areas with protected wildlife.”
A spokesman for Dorset Police said that they had attended the scene “to provide assistance” to the BCP Council and that the investigation was being conducted by the Dorset dog warden.
A resident posted on social media: “What kind of dog owner would let their dog loose and let them kill wildlife? Shocking.”