Illawarra beach wildlife rescuers are pleading with dog owners to obey signs and control their pets after a baby pelican was found mauled and barely alive at Fishermans Beach.
Australian Seabird Rescue's South Coast co-ordinator, Kirsten Holt, said residents found the fatally injured young bird while walking along the Port Kembla beach.
When rescuers were called out, the bird was still alive, she said. It had been clearly been attacked by a dog, as it had a crushed, broken leg and puncture wounds on its leg and back.
"There was a lot of blood and it [the pelican] wasn't dead, so it was extremely traumatised," she said.
According to Wollongong City Council, Fishermans Beach is zoned "orange" - dogs are only allowed between 4pm and 9am in winter and 6pm and 9am in summer and must be on a leash.
But rescue staff regularly saw dogs running on the beach outside those hours and without a leash, Ms Holt said.
She urged dog owners to take responsibility for their animals because the beach was vital in supporting the region's native wildlife.
"It is opposite Long Island, which is an important breeding ground for pelicans and other native birds," she said.
"Once the juveniles reach a certain age, they fly to the mainland and, in some cases, they become exhausted and have to land on the beach to regain their strength."
Australian Seabird Rescue workers also used the beach for releasing rehabilitated birds.
"It's very important to us because it's a sheltered, non-threatening area," Ms Holt said.
"So if there are people down there with their dogs, using it as a leash-free beach, it can interrupt those activities.
"Check the signage before you take your dog on a beach and if there are restrictions, respect them because there are good reasons they are there."
A spokesperson for the council said it had received no complaints about dogs at Fishermans Beach.
But summer patrol officers had issued two fines to people not obeying the orange-zone restrictions.