A quiet lambing season was shattered last week following the vicious mauling of 11 sheep, which left three dead.
The incident occurred just south of Warkworth on a lifestyle block off State Highway 1, near McKinney Road.
Owner Clair Turner was awakened before 6am by the sound of, what she describes as, “mad barking”.
She ran out into her paddock to find a dog gnawing at the face of one of her distressed sheep.
Clair said it was difficult to make out the dog clearly in the half-light.
She said she could not identify the breed, but it appeared to be a medium-size dog, dark tan in colour with a large head and chest. But even identifying the colour of the dog was tricky, as there was so much blood around, much of it covering the dog’s face.
The dog fled when Clair arrived on the scene. The attack left two sheep dead and a third so badly injured it had to be put down by a vet. One of the dead sheep had its face bitten off, while another had lost its back leg.
Clair described the loss as “devastating”.
“It’s not about the monetary loss. These were more pets than anything else. They were all known by name,” she said.
Eight sheep had tried to escape by wading into a pond in the paddock, but most had sustained serious injuries and several had their ears bitten off.
The vet treated the surviving sheep with antibiotics and painkillers.
Clair said the ones that survived were not doing brilliantly and more might need to be put down.
“I just want to warn the rest of the farming community out there to be vigilant,” she said.
Asked what she would say to the owner of the offending dog if given the opportunity, Clair said: “Make sure you know where your dog is at all times. Have your dog under control.”
Animal control officers were on the scene shortly after the dog attack. A visit to properties on McKinney Road and Wech Drive, and a patrol around the surrounding areas was unsuccessful in locating the offending dog or dogs.
Auckland Council animal management manager Sarah Anderson said the Warkworth attack was the worst Council was aware of in recent months and dog attacks, in general, were rare in the area.
“Our last reported attack around Warkworth was on a cat a month ago, and the cat sustained no injuries,” she said.
She said stock acting in a panicked manner was often a sign that they were being worried by dogs.
She encouraged anyone witnessing this to call Auckland Council’s contact centre on 09 301 0101.
Ms Anderson said lambing season could make sheep more vulnerable to attack if they were physically lambing at the time. On the other hand, sheep were more likely to stand their ground when they had lambs, which could make them safer. Once sheep started running, dogs would generally give chase.
Sergeant Geoff Medland, of Wellsford Police, said that dog attacks on sheep in the wider Wellsford and Mangawhai areas were also rare. They tended to happen only when a dog had become “bloodied” after making its first attack and the dog then developed a taste to attack again.
He said farmers who were licensed firearm owners were entitled to shoot dogs engaged in attacking stock, but not those running away from the scene following an attack. He said police discouraged the use of guns except as a last resort.