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Maremmas on duty early to combat fox threat

News Article Date: 
Tuesday, 25 June 2019

The discovery of fox paw prints on Middle Island and the earlier than expected arrival of penguins have prompted an early return to duty for the Middle Island maremmas.

“We had reports that penguins were arriving early at Phillip Island so members of the Middle Island Project Group decided to visit the island to see whether the same was happening in Warrnambool,” Middle Island Project Coordinator Dr Trish Corbett said

“We found penguins, mostly male, had been arriving in small numbers.

“They were in good condition and scouting out nesting sites. 

“It appears there has been plenty of food for them and they are ready for the coming breeding season.”

Fox prints were found on the beach fronting Stingray Bay and across other areas of the island. 

“This was of concern so Eudy and Isola (the new female puppy) were taken on to the island to guard any further penguins that arrived,” Dr Corbett said. 

The dogs remained on the island for three nights while the tide was low. 

At the next low tide, Friday June 21, and Eudy and Mezzo were placed on the island. 

During this visit stray dog prints were identified on the beach, suggesting an uninvited predator was lurking. 

A dead penguin was also found. 

A post-mortem examination found the penguin had been killed by a dog.

On June 22 the team searched the areas of the island that cannot be seen from land or from the boardwalk.

A further seven penguin carcasses were found; one killed by a dog while the others were older and had been killed by fox. 

“Returning the maremmas to the island has once again proven a successful deterrent to both dog and fox predators with no sign of either while the dogs have been on duty,” Dr Corbett said. 

“The dogs will be taken to the island as often as the tide is low enough to safely take them across. 

“We do encourage dog owners to ensure their dogs are not wandering at night.”

Council also has a fox management program planned.


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