Keep dogs on short leads to protect ground-nesting birds – Wildlife Trusts

Threatened birds such as skylarks and curlew nest on the ground in the countryside.

Emily Beament
Tuesday 12 April 2022 16:26
Oystercatcher with chick (Amy Lewis/PA)
Oystercatcher with chick (Amy Lewis/PA)

Dogwalkers are being urged to keep their pets on a short lead to help protect ground-nesting birds in wild places this spring and summer.

Threatened birds such as skylarks and curlews, as well as species including nightjars, willow warblers, oystercatchers and little terns nest on the ground in moorland, heathland, woods, meadows, beaches and coastal areas.

The Wildlife Trusts’ call to keep dogs on a short lead to protect fragile nests and eggs has been backed by James Brittain-McVey, lead guitarist of The Vamps, dog owner and ambassador for the coalition of wildlife charities.

He said: “I’ve learnt, as a rescue dog owner, the importance of keeping your dog under control at all times.

“And at this time of year, it’s especially important to remember that we can all play our part in helping birds breed successfully by keeping dogs on short leads in wild places – especially when so many species are having such a hard time.”

James Byrne, landscapes recovery programme manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Allowing dogs to run wild in nature reserves can be devastating for wildlife, particularly in spring when species are breeding and vulnerable.

“We’re asking dog walkers to be sensitive by keeping their animals on short leads, sticking to paths, and properly disposing of dog poo.

“Wildlife is already under enormous pressure – let’s all keep dogs in check so as not to make things worse.”

Nests and young on the ground can be at risk of disturbance, trampling or other damage.

Keeping dogs under control can also protect wildlife from snakes to seals, as well as livestock such as sheep.

James Brittain-McVey and Kirstie Brittain-McVey with Moochie (The Wildlife Trusts/PA)

Dogs disturbed seals at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s South Walney nature reserves earlier this year and the charity fears seal numbers are down as a result.

Other wildlife trusts have experienced problems with dogs chasing grazing livestock, with several sheep recently attacked at a nature reserve looked after by Gwent Wildlife Trust in South Wales.

The Wildlife Trusts is highlighting that dogs must be kept on a lead no longer than two metres between March 1 and July 31 on open access land to protect ground-nesting birds.

And some beaches have cordoned-off areas to protect some of the rarest birds’ nests – but the charities say it is best to keep dogs on leads on all beaches and the wider countryside until chicks have fledged in September.

Some trusts also ask dog walkers to avoid some of their nature reserves because the wildlife there is too rare or fragile and needs special protection – so visitors should check an individual reserve’s website before visiting for the first time.

The trusts also said dogs should be on a lead around grazing animals, although it is safer to let your dog off a lead if you are chased by cows or horses.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in