I am writing (not for the first time) to defend the rights of the echidnas, wallabies, snakes and goannas who live in the Nature Reserve in Brunswick Heads. This is a protected place – a haven in a fiercely intrusive world – where horses and dogs and other introduced animals are not allowed. Especially dogs.
For walkers into this safe space, please keep in mind that animals communicate by a sense of smell more than by sight. Your dog may be a member of the family, may never hurt another being, but dog’s urine and poo are definite forms of communication, ‘I am here!’ and being carnivorous, their scent indubitably more assertive than herbivores, pronouncing them to be predators.
Some of our native animals, cute, threatened, diminishing, are so gentle they may be incurably affected by fear. A wildlife carers manual (Dooley, C. Macropology, 2004, p. 19) states “Stress is a macropod’s number one enemy and the thing that causes most macropods to die. ‘The causes of fear are numerous’, but ‘Closeness to things their instincts tell them are predators eg dogs’ is one within everyone’s ability to reduce. Echidnas and other native animals in reserves may suffer similar effects from fear, or internal injuries from a ‘play’ with a friendly dog.
So, even though Fido or Rover or cute little Cinnamon may not dig up an echidna’s burrow (even though it is in dog’s nature to be a dog), even though your one, two or even three dogs (three dogs!) may be on leads and never encounter a native animal face to face, be aware, be sensitive, be a custodian, our undefended natives may not need to meet them face to face to be permanently affected.
Keep your dogs and horses to the allocated areas. Please.
Teeya Blatt, Long-time Brunswick Heads resident and lover of native wildlife.