Dogs kill nesting turtle
FLIPPER tracks in the sand tell a story of the frantic final moments of a flatback turtle found dead at North Harbour Beach.
What should have been the first successful nesting event for North Harbour Beach for the 2018-19 season turned into a tragedy overnight Sunday when the large turtle was attacked and killed by dogs.
Covered in scratches, bites marks and suffering deep wounds to its neck, eyes and flippers, the female turtle was discovered early Monday morning by Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association member Valda Regan.
Association spokeswoman Fay Griffin said it appeared the turtle had made its way up the beach and laid its eggs and was heading back to the water's edge when it was attacked.
"Valda, the lady who monitors North Harbour and Lamberts Beach, walked as she normally does. She comes down very early and checks the beach. She found the turtle and she rang our president, Steve Fisher, who lives around the corner, so he came down and helped,” Mrs Griffin said.
"We can see her track heading out and the area where it's churned up from the attack. Steve said you could see the dog prints and where the turtle has tried to get away from the dogs.
"She obviously didn't get away and with those injuries, particularly the one on her neck, she has bled out.
"They pulled the turtle up onto the beach so it wouldn't go out with the next high tide and the council will come along and bury it right beside the edge of the dune.”
Mrs Griffin, who has volunteered with the group since it began in 1992, said dog attacks were rare.
"In all we haven't had that many turtles that have been attacked by dogs,” she said.
"There was one at Sarina Beach about 10 years ago, one at Blacks Beach many years ago, another at Blacks Beach about five years ago and one more recently at Seaforth. It is not something that happens every year but we don't like to see it happen at all.”
The attack marks a tragic start to the nesting season, which began with a turtle laying at Seaforth on September 23.
Three other turtles have been recorded nesting since, including the one killed.
With the nesting season set to run until mid-January and the hatching season until the end of February, Mrs Griffin urged dog owners to ensure their pets were kept on their leads and secure at night.
"A lot of people don't realise that the turtles nest in this area.
"They don't see them and that is the point - turtles don't nest in the daytime. Any sandy beach in the area is a potential nesting site,” she said.
"On average we get about 100 turtles nesting every year, it doesn't sound much but every turtle is important.
"They lay 50-60 eggs at one time and they say only 1-in-1000 reaches maturity.
"We'd just like dog owners to be aware that it is turtle nesting season and to please keep their dogs locked up at night, particularly in beach areas, because that is mainly when the turtles come in.
"With the nests starting to pop up, people should also take extra care on the beach and not interfere with the nests.
"The marine turtles are protected, along with their nests and hatchlings.”
If anyone is interested in volunteering with the Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association or spots a potential turtle nest, they should phone 49549613.