By Luke Voogt
Wildlife activists are calling for dog-exclusion zones on Surf Coast beaches after a Labrador allegedly mauled an endangered 19-day-old plover chick to death on Sunday.
Moggs Creek retiree Margaret MacDonald was walking down a beach stairway at Point Roadknight when two Labradors bounded to the base of the steps.
“The whole thing was a disaster,” the 80-year-old said.
“If I had been two minutes earlier it might not have happened.”
One dog picked up the baby hooded plover before she could reach the bottom, she said.
“These dogs were obviously out of control.”
A teenage girl ran after the dog, which dropped the chick, Ms MacDonald said.
“It was still very warm when I picked it up.”
The dogs chased the chick’s parents before the girl and an accompanying man put them on leads, Ms MacDonald said.
She did not recognise the girl or the man, who had been close to the water during the incident.
“I tried to catch up with them but they were walking very fast,” she said.
“I held (the plover chick) gently for 20 minutes, I suppose, hoping it would come back, but there was no life in it.”
Later she discovered a puncture wound from the Labrador’s tooth, she said.
Ms MacDonald was part of a group of volunteers who spent about 100 hours patrolling the beach and erecting warning signs to protect the endangered, newly-hatched chick.
“We were absolutely devastated,” she said.
She called for dog-exclusion zones at hooded plover nesting sites, which fellow Friend of the Hooded Plovers Sue Guinness echoed.
Ms Guinness urged authorities to prosecute owners of dogs that killed wildlife or destroyed habitats.
“It’s a disgrace that it’s been able to happen,” she said.
“People have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control even in a dog off-leash area where this has occurred.”
The hooded plover is endangered and especially vulnerable in its first five weeks, when it is unable to fly.