Whitebait season is a much loved season here on the West Coast and throughout New Zealand. Families enjoy their old traditions of getting out to favourite spots to spend time with family, friends, or some much needed alone time and to hope for a lucky catch.

It is unfortunately also the penguin season too – that crucial time of egg laying, new chicks hatching and parents frantically going in and out of the sea bringing food for their offspring.

It is a busy time at the beach currently, where penguins, humans, cars, and dogs all have to co-exist as best we can.

We wish you luck with your whitebaiting. Here are some useful tips to keep our penguins safe at the same time:

– If you have to drive on the beach or coast roads, please try to avoid the period dawn to dusk or drive extra slowly as our little 30 cm high friends could be crossing – please watch out for them.

– Dogs are humans’ best friends, but it’s sadly not the same for penguins. Unfortunately they are still the main threat to our penguins after vehicles. Please do your part and keep your furry best friends in your sight and under close control when you are out on the beach and estuary areas – penguins can travel up rivers for a kilometre or so. If possible, please keep  your dog out of the sand dunes and bushes/vegetation at the back – this is penguin nesting zone.

– Everyone believes that their dogs couldn’t possibly kill a penguin, but a penguin is simply a fluffy chew toy to a dog, they are intending no harm most of the time. We have all seen a loving, gentle, family dog with a new chew toy for Christmas – little penguins don’t look much different.

– If you see a penguin trying to come home and he looks disturbed by your presence, please let him by without disturbance so he can go feed his chicks.

Many thanks for your consideration and we hope you have a great season! Who knows you may be lucky enough to experience a penguin sighting whilst catching a net full!

Take a look at DOC’s Wildlife Wise Dogs programme here for some of their helpful hints: