The Department of Conservation is appalled that a protected red-billed gull was shot as a ‘target’ in Oamaru.

The native bird was found yesterday morning with a crossbow arrow fired from under its wing and into the side of its body, at Oamaru Port, by a member of staff at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

After an X-ray at the Veterinary Center confirmed that the arrow was blunt, it was removed from the seagull.

The Department of Conservation was contacted and the bird was taken to Wildlife Hospital, Dunedin, where it was recovering well.

Philippa Agnew, scientific and environmental manager of the Oamaru blue penguin colony, understood that the birds were a hot topic in Oamaru, but shooting one down was inexcusable.

“That’s no reason to engage in that kind of behavior, activity and hurt them like that,” Dr Agnew said.

“Protected species or not, it’s so horrible that someone would do such a thing to an animal. It was in obvious pain.

She searched the area for other injured birds and found none, although she encouraged people to keep an eye out for them.

“It makes you think that if they’re going to do it once and they have multiple arrows, maybe they’ve done it multiple times.”

Gull shooting was not common in Oamaru, but there had been similar incidents in the past fortnight at Waikanae on the Kapiti coast where two gulls were found with dart bolts stuck in them.

Doc Ecology Technical Advisor Bruce McKinlay said he took the incident very seriously and called on anyone with information to come forward.

”This type of behavior is completely unacceptable. Our protected and endangered species should not be used for target practice,’ he said.

“Although red-billed gulls may appear common, they have a national vulnerability threat classification and their numbers are declining.”

Red-billed Gulls are protected under the Wildlife Act. The maximum penalty for disturbing protected species is a $100,000 fine or two years in jail.

The incident would be reported to the police, although Doc administers wildlife law and can take action regarding the incident.

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