Critically endangered shorebirds at risk from off-leash dogs in Byron Shire

With only eleven breeding pairs of Beach Stone Curlew in NSW, local residents and visitors to Byron Shire are being asked to help protect the critically endangered shorebird by keeping their pets away from shorebird habitat areas.

Off-leash dog chases beach stone-curlew (Esacus magnirostris), Byron Shire

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Ranger Team Leader, Jenny Atkins said off-leash dogs are a key threat to curlews and other migratory shorebirds that inhabit Belongil and nearby Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve.

“Shorebirds are wild animals and are very sensitive to disturbances by people, vehicles and animals,” said Ms Atkins.

“An off-leash dog is a terrifying prospect for a shorebird and can cause them to panic and abandon their nests for long periods of time. This can be lethal for eggs and chicks, as they are left vulnerable to predation and harmful weather conditions.

“We’ve also seen shorebird nests crushed, destroyed and, and in some cases, the eggs eaten by off-leash dogs.

“For this reason, off-leash dogs are not permitted in shorebird habitat, including on the beach adjacent to the Belongil Creek estuary or the Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve. The minimum penalty for an off-leash dog in these areas is $300.

NPWS, Cape Byron Marine Park and Byron Shire Council staff regularly patrol these areas and can issue on the spot fines.

“The Belongil breeding pair of beach stone-curlews first began nesting in the area in 2018. Over the past two years, only two chicks have successfully fledged at this site.

“NPWS is also working with the Saving our Species program on a broader conservation project to secure the future of the beach stone-curlew but it’s important that we all do our part to help this threatened species.

“We’re appealing to pet owners to please give the birds space. Ensure your dog remains within designated off-leash zones at Belongil Beach and Brunswick Heads Main Beach,” said Ms Atkins.

Maps of permitted off-leash dog exercise areas in the Byron Shire can be found on the Byron Shire Council website.

You can report illegal activities in Byron National Parks to Tweed Byron Area on (02) 6639 8300 or by emailing