Turtle attack: Dog blamed for savage Bibra Lake mauling

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Ben Smith - Cockburn Gazette
October 16, 2020



THE worst kill of southwestern snake-necked turtles in Bibra Lake wetlands this breeding season has heightened local resolve to safeguard the threatened species.

Four turtles found last week with fatal injuries on the shoreline next to Bibra Lake regional playground had to be euthanised by wildlife group Native Arc.

The City of Cockburn suspects the injuries were caused by a dog - as opposed to a fox or other wild predator - and has pleaded with owners to keep their pets on leashes near lakes and wetlands, especially given the turtles are in the midst of nesting season.

City-backed research by Murdoch University PhD student Anthony Santoro found the number of nesting turtles killed by predators dropped from 25 to 17 between 2018-19 and 2019-20. Nests found to have been raided by predators also reduced from 135 to 120.

Cockburn environment manager Chris Beaton said at least eight turtles had died so far this nesting season, but the City had made considerable efforts to safeguard turtles in the area.

“To date we have lost five turtles to what we believe to be a dog attack, one to raven attacks and two due to vehicle impact,” he said.

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A southwestern snake-necked turtle hatchling in Bibra Lake in August 2020. Credit: Supplied/City of Cockburn


“45 eggs were able to be recovered from the turtles that were attacked last week, and these have been placed in holes and covered with soil in strategic areas around Bibra Lake.”

Mr Beaton said the City’s environment team had investigated the incident and were fairly certain it was a dog which caused the injuries.

“Native ARC Inc vets who assessed the dead turtles were relatively confident the injuries were caused by a dog attack rather than a fox,” he said.

“The City’s feral animal control contractor also believes the injuries sustained by the turtles are consistent with a dog attack rather than a fox.”

Most nesting activity happens between September and March, but can differ depending on female nesting habits.

At October’s council meeting, council received a report which provided an update on the City’s measures to safeguard turtles around Bibra Lake.

The City has taken steps to provide protection from predators, including ensuring its feral animal control program coincides with turtle nesting season, upgraded fencing on turtle nesting cages and changes to their volunteer ‘Turtle Tackers’ program.

They have also re-engineered a retaining wall along the western side of Bibra Lake to provide safe nesting locations and spent $22,000 on GPS trackers to monitor turtle locations.

As part of their recently adopted animal management and exercise plan, the City has also committed to prohibit cats from conservation areas such as Bibra Lake and by 2025, be banned from leaving their owner’s property at any time.

There have also been efforts to reduce turtle fatalities caused by vehicles, such as temporary signs and message boards, the modification of fauna underpasses and removing kerbing near the corner of Progress Drive and Hope Road to allow turtles an easier passage.
 

adderboy

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Unfortunately, Council staff in Perth are rarely deployed to enforce rules about dogs being on leashes and very rarely, if ever, penalise owners who flout the rule. And the relevant dog owners know it.
It usually takes an attack on a person or, ironically, on another person's dog, to prompt legal action.
 

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