Dog rescued from remote island after it got spooked by a sealion and ran off

Flint and his handler Richard Johnston ride on a boat (Picture: New Zealand Department of Conservation)

A rat-sniffing dog ended up stranded on an uninhabited Pacific island unable to eat or drink after running away from his handler when a sealion jumped out of a bush and spooked him.

Flint, a Jack Russell-fox terrier cross, found himself lost and alone on Campbell Island, located between mainland New Zealand and Antarctica, when bad weather forced crews to abandon their search efforts.

He was there as part of Operation Endurance, a work programme involving around 100 conservation rangers, weather officials and members of New Zealand’s military.

The island is one of dozens cleared of predators, including rodents, to allow endangered native birds to flourish and Flint had been deployed to check that no rats had returned.

To make his ordeal worse, he’d been fitted with a standard-issue muzzle that prevents any of the dogs potentially attacking the rare, flightless birds – making eating or drinking practically impossible.

John McCarroll, the Department of Conservation’s acting operations manager for the area, described how crews scoured the dense bush on foot while the military scrambled a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging to search the rest of the island.

But bad weather and mechanical issues affecting the navy ship they’d arrived on a week earlier meant the team were forced to make the heart-breaking decision to leave Flint behind late on Wednesday.

However, back on mainland New Zealand, plans were in motion for a rescue operation and another helicopter was dispatched on Friday carrying three crew members 400 miles across the south Pacific.

When they arrived at base, they found Flint waiting for them after he’d made the three-hour hike back from where he went missing.

‘At first he was scared of the noise of the helicopter,’ Mr McCarroll said.

‘They called him once, they called him twice, and then he was happy to come and greet them.’

Flint arrived back on the mainland on Friday evening.

He even managed to beat his handler, Richard Johnston, who isn’t expected back with the rest of the crew on the navy ship until early next week.

Mr McCarroll added: ‘He was in very good spirits. We gave him some more food and he wolfed that down. He looks healthy, he looks happy and pleased to be home.’


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