Dog owners urged to keep dogs on leads during nesting season

Dog owners are being asked to keep their pets under control during a critical time for wildlife.

At this time of year we're increasingly concerned about the distress that dogs can cause to nesting birds and wild mammals if they are allowed to run free.

After the gruesome discovery of a lapwing and its chicks which had been savaged to death by a dog on Little Woolden Moss, in Salford, we're desperate to reiterate just how important it is for dog owners to be vigilant and responsible on their walks.

Wildlife Trust Campaigns Manager, Alan Wright, said:

“The lapwing and its chicks were killed by a dog which had disturbed their nest. Imagine the distress that the parent lapwing went through as it tried to defend its chicks?

“Ground nesting birds aren't the only animals to consider. Just last year I watched in horror as a pair of lurchers chased a young roe deer through woodland. The fawn was in complete panic and the dogs, which were pets, were letting out frenzied barks as they chased it. It was a horrible thing to witness.”

A roe deer buck standing in grassland in the sunshine

Roe deer buck by Alan Wright

Young wild birds and animals are particularly vulnerable to attack, many only a couple of days or weeks old in spring. Ground nesting birds, like lapwing, skylark and curlew may only be metres away from popular paths on moorland and in woods, while young roe deer may be hunkered down in vegetation.

Many dog attacks are not deliberate and are just carelessness on the part of owners.

Alan said: “I am sure that 99 per cent of dog owners do not intend their dogs to harass wildlife but, at this time of year, you need to be in control of your pet. In most cases this means putting your dog on a lead.

“My dog never strays far from me on a walk and stays on paths, so he is under control. If I feel there is a situation where he – or another dog – may misbehave, I immediately put him on his lead.

“Every day I see owners out with their dogs, allowing their pets to tear off into woodland or onto moors. Sometimes they do not see them for minutes on end which, in the nesting season, is not good news for creatures seeking cover nearby.”

A lapwing chick hiding amongst dew-covered grass

Lapwing chick by Margaret Holland

It is important that nesting birds are undisturbed during spring and summer so their chicks have time to grow and look after themselves.

The lockdown has meant many birds have been left alone on moorland and in woods for weeks, so it could mean a bumper year for wildlife, but that is no reason for complacency.

Alan said: “We are getting reports of a lot of wildlife getting closer to people as they are not used to seeing us this year, but that could mean danger for wild animals. And let’s not forget the lambs that are around at the moment.

“As always, it comes down to the owner being in control of their pet. As an owner your pet cannot do anything wrong in your eyes until it savages a bird or another dog, so you must know your dog and keep it under control.”

Dogs must be on leads on all of our nature reserves. Dogs are not allowed at Brockholes Nature Reserve, except for the Guild Wheel path, but they must be on leads.

Dog-friendly nature reserves