A walk in nature can be a rewarding and uplifting experience, and for many, a walk is much enhanced by the company of a favourite pooch. But, if visiting nature reserves it pays to keep your dog on a short lead to prevent disturbing wildlife.
As a dog owner, I understand that they sometimes need to run free, but on nature reserves our much-loved pets can be an unwitting menace to wildlife. All it takes is for a dog to wander off the path to scare off an adult bird or even trample a nest.
Not all birds nest high up in trees and hedgerows. Many nest directly on the ground or in low bushes, long grass or reeds. Willow warblers like to tuck themselves away at the base of trees and bushes, whilst meadow pipits often lay their precious eggs in grassy tussocks in meadows or on commons.
The law says that when on any open access land, you must keep your dog on a lead no longer than two metres between 1st March and 31st July to protect ground-nesting birds. This law doesn’t extend to our nature reserves so we rely on the good will of visitors to keep their pets under control. With more pressure on local greenspaces and upwards of two million more dogs since before the pandemic, now seems a good time to remind folk of the need to keep dogs on leads.
Many species that can easily be disturbed, such as willow warblers, have travelled thousands of miles from Africa to breed here, making it even more vital that dog owners help give birds every chance of success.
People often ask why we don’t just ban dogs from our sites. We’d prefer everyone to be able to visit but do ask that people keep their pets under close control and preferably on a lead. Keeping dogs on a short lead is especially vital at this time of year when, in addition to ground nesting birds being at their most vulnerable, lambs from our conservation grazing flock are soon to return to nature reserves across the county from our lambing base at Idle Valley Nature Reserve.
In addition to keeping dogs on a short lead we’re asking dog walkers to stick to paths, properly dispose of dog poo, and to keep pets out of the water. Keeping dogs on short leads also benefits other wildlife, from seals to amphibians.
For further details about visiting our nature reserves with your dogs go to www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/dogs-nature-reserves.
Main image:Dogs leads, Peter Cairns