LOCAL laws officers have started patrols at Shoreham Foreshore one week after the death a wallaby joey at Shoreham foreshore whose mother was apparently chased by dogs on Sunday 3 September.
The death prompted an outcry from residents and the Shoreham Foreshore Reserve Committee, which is calling for greater awareness of the risk unleashed dogs pose to wildlife.
The dead joey was found in the foreshore reserve on the Monday morning, following an incident on Sunday night in which it is believed barking dogs chased the mother and caused it to eject or lose her joey.
Management committee chair Toby Shnookal said committee members had just weeks earlier celebrated the presence of the joey and its mother in the reserve.
Although the exact circumstances of the death were unknown, dogs were heard barking in the reserve and the foreshore reserve manager found the joey the next morning.
It was not the first time wildlife had been attacked by dogs at the foreshore, despite signs stating dogs were not allowed in the nature reserve and must be on a leash during restricted hours in other areas.
Last year a wallaby drowned at Shoreham after being chased into the water by an unleashed dog whose owner allegedly watched from the shore but did not intervene.
“It appears likely the dogs in the reserve were off lead on Sunday, but this is not known. However, on the evidence, this appears to be the likely scenario,” Shnookal said.
“Further, there have been observed dog attacks on wallabies in the reserve in the past 12 months.
“This is a plainly a very sad event. The committee is committed to restoring the native bush including flora and fauna within the 170 hectares of the reserve.”
A report of the incident on Facebook prompted an outpouring of grief and calls for more to be done to raise awareness of the risk dogs pose to wildlife.
Shnookal said people needed to be aware that the presence of dogs in the reserve could impact wildlife.
“We want people to understand that there is a good reason dogs are banned from the reserve. It’s unsafe for wildlife but can also cause significant changes in wildlife behaviour,” he said.
“We want our wildlife to stay here so dogs have to stay out.”
The ban on dogs also protected endangered migratory birds that nested along the beaches.
The reserve committee is legislated to be able to control what is allowed in the reserve, and anyone not complying with prohibitions or regulations can be prosecuted and ejected.
All management committees from Merricks to Shoreham have made similar regulations.
Officers from Mornington Peninsula Shire Council can also issue on-the-spot infringement notices for breaches and seize unaccompanied dogs.
Shnookal said several years ago a member of the public who threated violence and disobeyed directions of an authorised officer to remove a dog from the beach was charged by the police with assault and banned from the reserve.
Kangaroo advocate Craig Thomson of SKOMP said the discovery of the dead joey was “horrible news”.
He has urged the reserve committee to make a report to the conservation regulator, who may choose to investigate the incident with the intention of prosecuting any offender found to have been involved.
The Shoreham foreshore is Crown Land controlled by the state government but managed by the committee.
The committee recently signed a memorandum of understanding that allows council officers to enforce its controls.
The mayor Cr Steve Holland said the effective management of dogs in public spaces and the promotion of responsible dog ownership was important to protect wildlife, the environment, community amenity and safety.