Over a Dozen Penguins Found Dead in Suspected Dog Attack

More than a dozen penguins have been found dead on an Australian beach after a suspected dog attack.

The incident occurred on West Beach in Burnie—a port city located on the northwest coast of the island state of Tasmania—Friday morning local time, Australian outlet The Advocate reported.

Anthony Hall, a resident of a nearby locality, said he was running along the boardwalk of the beach at around 5:15 a.m. when he saw a large dog standing over a dead penguin.

Hall said the dog looked like a German shepherd cross, estimating it to weigh around 66 pounds. He said the dog had black-colored fur on top and dark-tan fur below.

"It was down in front of the penguins just up from the stairs," the man said. "I kept coming along the boardwalk towards it. But once you got about 20, 30 meters [65, 98 feet] away it would just take off."

After spotting the first dead penguin, Hall noticed that were several more carcasses strewn across the beach, which is supposed to be dog free. In total, 17 dead penguins were found on the beach. All of them were "little penguins," the smallest species of penguin, which is found on the coastlines of Australia and New Zealand.

Officials from the Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment collected the dead birds from the beach and said the incident was being investigated.

"An investigation will be conducted to ascertain the possible cause of death. Carcasses have been collected to determine cause of death," the department said in a statement.

Any members of the public that may have further information about the incident are being asked to contact local authorities.

Kathy Grieveson, president of local charity Penguin Rehab and Release, said further deaths would likely follow, given that all the birds killed were adults and it is currently the middle of the breeding season.

"The death of one parent can mean the death of the whole family; if the other parent isn't able to do the hunting," she told the Advocate. "It's not just the immediate birds that are impacted."

Grieveson said more needed to be done to prevent the killings of little penguins, suggesting that the focus of local authorities should shift from education to punishment.

"Councils have got dog patrol officers, but they're not patrolling the beaches as often as should happen, particularly during the breeding season," she said.

"This is when extra patrols need to be occurring. All along the coast we keep getting dog attacks occurring, and they never stop and nothing ever changes. People aren't going to stop doing the wrong thing until it hurts their back pockets. They need to have infringement notices handed to them."

But while Burnie City Council Mayor Steve Kons said the incident was "a terrible thing to have happened," he did not think the council should introduce fines or greater regulations.

"Even if it is patrolled rigorously and heavy 24 hours a day, you're still going to have these things happen," he said.

A little penguin in Australia
Stock image of a little penguin (Eudyptula minor) in Australia. Seventeen little penguins were found dead on an Australian beach after a suspected dog attack on Friday. iStock