Unleashed dogs a risk for Port Hills sheep

BAAAH: Port Hills users are urged to keep dogs leashed and stay away from ewes and their lambs.

Dogs must now be kept on a leash as lambing season gets under way.

There are hundreds of lambs around Halswell Quarry, Mt Vernon, Sugarloaf, Scarborough Hill, Greenwood Reserve, Godley Head Reserve, Castle Hill Reserve and Montgomery Spur Reserve.

Matt Rose, a city council ranger based at Victoria Park, said signs have been put up on Port Hills tracks alerting visitors to the lambs, but he has noticed people are still walking and biking in the area with their dogs roaming free.

There have been cases in the past where dogs have chased or mauled newborn lambs.

“The city council doesn’t close tracks for lambing, but we are asking the public to respect stock welfare. The next four to five weeks are the most crucial time for lambing and it’s important that dogs are kept on a lead,” said Mr Rose.

City council reserves are used for sheep grazing by farmers who hold a licence.

The grazing is an important management tool for the grassland/tussock areas of the Port Hills and helps to reduce fire risk by keeping grass short and reducing the spread of woody weeds.

Mr Rose said, if someone comes across a lamb that seems abandoned, it is usually best to leave it there, write down the location and call the city council’s call centre.

In many cases the ewe has just temporarily left the lamb and is grazing nearby.

If people handle the lamb it becomes harder for the mother to recognise her offspring and she might reject it as a result.

Port Hills farmer Jean Scott is expecting an excellent lambing season this year. She asked people using Port Hills tracks to keep their distance from stock, leave gates as they found them and keep their dogs under control.

Fines of $300 can be issued to owners of dogs not kept under effective control and if a dog attacks stock the owner could face prosecution by the city council.