DOG owners around Woolgoolga are on notice.
Coffs Harbour City Council now requires pets be kept on a leash in an area around the Little Terns nesting site on Hearnes Lake Beach in an effort to give the endangered species further protection during the critical breeding season.
“We’re asking dog owners for their co-operation in controlling their animals in a roughly one hectare area around the Little Terns site at the mouth of Willis Creek, close to Flat Top Rock,” said Nigel Cotsell, Council’s senior biodiversity officer.
The restriction will apply from today until February 1, 2011. In future years, it is planned to implement the change in zoning for the whole of the breeding season, from October 1 until February 1.
Last year, hopes were high that the site – which has grown enormously in significance following the failures of established colonies elsewhere on the East Coast – would produce a bumper breeding season for this endangered species.
However, disturbance by dogs, vehicles and kite-surfers saw the 200-strong colony reduced to just 60 and only 16 chicks finally hatched.
In an effort to help the colony re-establish itself this year, temporary fencing has again been installed around the site. The vehicle access way known as the Flat Top Entrance will be closed – once chicks emerge – until January 24, 2011, and vehicles will be restricted to south of the breeding site at Willis Creek.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has also established a predator control program and an exclusion zone for kite-surfing has been introduced.