Black-billed gull attacks condemned

Two endangered black-billed gulls were shot dead in their nesting spot at Groyne 44 on the north bank of the Waimakariri River in Canterbury on Sunday.

There were approximately 600 nesting pairs at the location, upstream from Diversion Road, but less than 200 remain and this desertion of a majority of the colony will have a huge impact on their ability to breed.

Shooting these birds is an offence under the Wildlife Act and it has left Environment Canterbury and the Department of Conservation (DOC) extremely disappointed.

Empty cartridges, likely from a rifle, were found near the scene and Simon Woods, team leader parks and forests for Environment Canterbury, was frustrated by the incident.

“These are endangered birds and to see them targeted like this is very concerning,” Woods said.

“We ask that people please be mindful of these birds and respect their habitat.”

Woods said this served as another reminder that this type of activity was banned.

“Target shooting with all types of firearms is prohibited within the Waimakariri River Regional Park.”

There were also multiple black-fronted terns nesting around the edges of the colony, many with chicks running around.

The black-billed gulls had been washed out of their previous nesting spots multiple times this season, Woods said.

“They had chosen this spot as a last-ditch attempt to fledge chicks for the season. There’s a strong possibility that will not happen now.” 

Environment Canterbury has since erected signage in the area notifying people there are endangered birds nesting.

DOC senior ranger Anita Spencer said the deaths of the birds was senseless.

“It is really disappointing to hear of this incident. Black-billed gull populations have declined steeply during the past few decades, which is one of the reasons why they have the highest threat ranking of ‘nationally critical’,” Spencer said.

“This incident has not only resulted in the death of two long-lived birds but has effectively ended the breeding season for several hundred other gulls, which is a real set-back. Across Canterbury many people are working to protect our endangered black-billed gulls by doing predator control, managing vehicle access, or monitoring our birds. The actions of the shooters have effectively cancelled out some of that effort this season.”

Public appeal

Environment Canterbury and DOC is asking for anyone with more information to please come forward. They can contact the Mahaanui Department of Conservation office on 03) 341 9100.